Friday, December 27, 2013

Education Friday - Diagnosing Success

Perhaps I should post this on Monday under the title 
Moody Monday Musings, 
because it is not really anything but a thoughts about 
education and the diagnosis of autism.
Lately I have met several parents whose child, for one reason or another, received the autism diagnosis later in life - in the teens, twenties, or even thirties. 
And these parents regret their ignorance bitterly.
There are many reasons why early diagnosis is helpful,
but there is perhaps less reason for regret than we might
initially think. And if the parents did their best to give their
child the best education and life possible, there is no 
reason for the self-blame that many parents feel.
Ten years ago I spent as much time fighting with our insurance
company (BC/BS) as I did playing with and educating my
child. That may be an overstatement, but I don't think so.
I cannot imagine what I would have done with an autism
diagnosis twenty years ago when there was even less support.
I physically and emotionally exhausted myself in a never ending
quest to find the best therapeutic and educational alternatives for my child and had school door after school door slammed in my face because my child had autism. Without the diagnosis, some of those same places might have been more accepting since my boy's
behavior differences were mild.
I worried constantly about his abilities when he had no academic
challenges (other than handwriting) till third grade. 
I am most grateful for the community of parents, therapists, and children and adults with autism that I would never have found 
without the diagnosis. But early diagnosis is a tool, it is not a
remedy for the challenges of autism. And many parents and 
children have done a wonderful job of handling those challenges
without ever using the word autism to describe them. 
I salute them.
-Spectrum Mom                 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Gifts

At Christmas Eve service tonight, the minister said - 
"Now that Christmas has come,
ready or not, there is nothing left to do but reflect and celebrate 
the birth of Christ."
Only a single person without young children 
(or someone who does not celebrate Christmas in the 
conventional capitalist way) 
(or at all)
could have nothing left to do on Christmas Eve.
Even the very best organized of us needs to put out the 
milk and cookies.  My son reminded me about the milk.
And what if Santa skipped or skimped on those stockings 
hung by the chimney with care?
Since I am far from the best organized of us, 
and we've all been ill, 
I am trying to wrap my mind around gift wrap. 
The unwrapped books for my child with autism include
A Child's Christmas in Wales
Run For the Hills, Geronimo
Almost Naked Animals Joke-A-Palooza
and one reading related game, a magnetic
version of Hangman.
I am writing this on Christmas Eve so I had better
get wrapping. 
If you celebrate Christmas, my Christmas wish for you
is that you may have a joyous and peaceful day filled with the 
spirit of love. If you don't celebrate Christmas, my wish for you
is that you may have a joyous and peaceful day filled with the
spirit of love.
And in case I don't get back to you before then,
Happy New Year!

-Spectrum Mom


Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Monkey? A free book to print.

Asking 
Why?
is an important developmental stage. 
Usually around the ages of three to five,
a young child becomes a fountain of whys?
Questions about everything from dinner to
the sky flow freely and unstoppably from their little lips.
For a child with autism, 
why may come later, or not at all. 
Family and therapists may want to prompt and explain
why. One mother found her own way to work with her
child on why, and discussed it here.
Here's the link to the book for you to print.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Education Friday - Part Three Martha Gabler


How I Taught My Nonverbal Child with Autism to Read

Hello. My name is Martha Gabler and I am the parent of a nonverbal teenage son with autism. 
When I reported to Spectrum Mom that my son can read, she asked me to describe how I taught him. 
Here is part three of my story:

Here are the three steps I used to teach my son to read: 
  1. Make sure foundation skills are in place
  2. Use Direct Instruction reading programs
  3. Provide lots of supports, lots of opportunities to practice, and high levels of positive reinforcement.

Step Three: Provide supports, lots of opportunities to practice, and lots of high-value reinforcement

It is also very important to build a trusting relationship between the learner and the instructor. The child must have experience and confidence that he will only be asked to do tasks that he is capable of doing, and that he will only be asked to do tasks for the length of time he is comfortable performing them. The learner must be confident that the instructor will monitor the child’s emotional reactions and provide supports and respite as soon as he needs them. 
Also, the child needs high levels of reinforcement throughout the instructional sessions. Basically, the child needs to know that he will experience only success and reinforcement throughout the process; he should never experience failure, fatigue or frustration. It takes time and practice for the instructor and the learner to know how much they can 
do and when to stop.

So Where Are We Now?

I started teaching my nonverbal son with severe autism to read when he was 7. Now, at age 17 he can read fourth grade text at a fluency rate of 110 words per minute with no more than 0-2 errors. He easily decodes words like impression, binoculars, stationed and boasted. He is an excellent speller. He is completely comfortable with text and can work with charts, tables, diagrams and maps. Direct Instruction reading passages provide both fictional stories and academic content knowledge. As a result, he has learned a great deal about natural science, botany and animal behavior. When we go
out to parks he studies the signs and information panels 
along the hiking trails.

What about reading comprehension? Well, it is difficult to assess comprehension when the learner does not have the speech capacity to produce the answer to a question. In written comprehension questions he has made a lot of progress, especially when I see his eyes flash back and forth from the worksheet to the book to find the answer to a question. He does it with cool competence and joy. He works very hard at his reading, and his determination is touching to see.

Does he love reading? Yes. 
Is he proud of himself? Yes. 
Was it worth it? Yes. 
Letters, words, sentences and paragraphs are now part of my son’s world. Reading is natural for him. He will go through life with the ability to read. What was the most important thing? Direct Instruction, Direct Instruction, Direct Instruction.

Please feel free to contact me through my website below if you have any questions.

For more information about Direct Instruction, see below.

National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI), www.nifdi.org
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, by Dr. Siegfried Engelmann
Direct Instruction Reading, by Douglas W. Carnine, Jerry Silvert, Edward J. Kameenui.
Educating Children with Learning and Behavior Problems, by Dr. Martin Kozloff.

Martha Gabler is the mother of a 17 year old nonverbal boy with severe autism. From her experience in working with her son she founded Kids’ Learning Workshop LLC, a tutoring center specializing in the use of Direct Instruction for learners with special needs. She is also the author of Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism; this book describes how to use positive reinforcement along with an event marker signal to increase functional behaviors in a child with autism. See www.autismchaostocalm.com.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Christmas that Almost Wasn't

My boy wants a Hoberman sphere, a hexbug, 
and a Christmas book for Christmas. 
The Christmas book he's reading now over and over is 
The Christmas that Almost Wasn't by Ogden Nash.
This long verse by the famous author of nonsense verse 
tells the story of a fairytale kingdom of Lullapat with
its good king and his evil nephew. 
Linell Nash drew the black and white line drawings
that illustrate the story.
Neither the verse nor the story appeal to me, but
that's irrelevant. This is my son's book, not mine,
and it has the two essentials he wants from a book
in December
1) It rhymes.
2) It is about Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Education Friday - Gabler Part Two



How I Taught My Nonverbal Child with Autism to Read

Hello. My name is Martha Gabler and I am the parent of a nonverbal teenage son with autism. When I reported to Spectrum Mom that my son can read, she asked me to describe how I taught him. 
Here is part two of my story:

Here are the three steps I used to teach my son to read: 
  1. Make sure foundation skills are in place
  2. Use Direct Instruction reading programs
  3. Provide lots of supports, lots of opportunities to practice, and high levels of positive reinforcement.
Step Two: Use Direct Instruction Reading Programs
Many people are unfamiliar with the fact that there are scientific, research-validated methods for teaching academic skills. The most powerful and effective of these is a body of instructional programs known as “Direct Instruction.” 
These programs are based on both scientific principles of human learning and scientific principles of how to best teach specific academic skills. Direct Instruction (DI) curricula in reading, arithmetic, writing, spelling and language have a 40+ year record of delivering superior learning outcomes in all types of learners.

The specific program that I started with is a book by the founder of Direct Instruction, Dr. Siegfried Engelmann, entitled Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book is widely available at bookstores and on the internet and costs about $25. By the time we were on Lesson 17, my son was reading. We eventually moved on to the well-known Direct Instruction Reading Mastery series.

Keep in mind, however, that DI programs are designed for typically developing children who have speech. When you are working with a child with special needs, you have to approach things differently. It is very important to know your learner well and adapt the presentation so that your learner has success. Please note, I never made changes to the DI presentation itself. Primarily I provided extra supports, extra modeling, more repetition, or extra practice on certain parts of each lesson. Extra supports should be determined by the child’s level of performance.

Part Three of this essay will run next Friday, December 20.

Martha Gabler is the mother of a 17 year old nonverbal boy with severe autism. From her experience in working with her son she founded Kids’ Learning Workshop LLC, a tutoring center specializing in the use of Direct Instruction for learners with special needs. She is also the author of Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism; this book describes how to use positive reinforcement along with an event marker signal to increase functional behaviors in a child with autism. See www.autismchaostocalm.com.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gifts for Children with Autism - 2013

"Where did the name icicles come from 
and why are icicles called icicles?"
from Cecil Williams Photography http://www.cecilw.com/
My thirteen year old asks a lot of questions. Some of them
he has asked for years. He knows the answers. Some are new.
Lately he's been interested in word derivations - questions
such as the one above that I cannot answer while driving
a car. 
I think he needs a book on the subject. Any suggestions?
This time of year, many of us need gift suggestions for
our kids with autism. Some of them cannot tell us what
they want or write to Santa but that doesn't mean they cannot
have a magical Christmas. Here are two gifts to consider from
two of my favorite websites that offer many more books and
toys.

Marc Brown's Playtime Rhymes
For birth to age five
Chinaberry.com offers autographed copies of a book that offers rhymes and
fun movement games for your little ones with Marc Brown's inviting illustrations
of kids and animals enjoying their world.

Word Origin Calendar
For ages six to adult
MuseumTour.com offers some wonderful books and toys sure to appeal to the 
inquisitive child in your house. This calendar is for those of you with children
like my boy who are interested in calendars and words.





Friday, December 6, 2013

Education Friday Part One - Guest Expert Martha Gabler


How I Taught My Nonverbal Child with Autism to Read

Hello. My name is Martha Gabler and I am the parent of a nonverbal teenage son with autism. When I reported to Spectrum Mom that my son can read, she asked me to describe how I taught him. 
Here is my story:

It was very important to me that my son be able to read. I can accept that he has severe autism. I can accept that he is nonverbal. I could not accept that he would go through life not knowing how to read. It took me a long time and many hours of work. I made many mistakes. Eventually I succeeded. Here are the three steps I used to teach my son to read: 
  1. Make sure foundation skills are in place
  2. Use Direct Instruction reading programs
  3. Provide lots of supports, lots of opportunities to practice, and high levels of positive reinforcement.

 Step One: Make Sure Foundation Skills are in Place

The skills a child with autism will need to begin reading instruction include the ability to sit at a table for at least 15-20 minutes and the ability to respond to questions or complete tasks (this is generally achieved through an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) or VB (Verbal Behavior) program. 
During the pre-reading instruction, I focused on increasing 
the range of sounds my son could produce, and mastering 
as many labels of objects and actions as possible -
such as cat, dog, house, running, sitting, sleeping and so forth.

A comment on increasing the range of sounds: I used Dr. Martin Kozloff's excellent book, Educating Children with Learning and Behavior Problems, which has exact descriptions of how to have a child place his tongue and shape his mouth to make sounds. Since my son was nonverbal, I also used sign language to "sign" the sounds. This approach is similar to what is done in Verbal Behavior Therapy (VB); non-verbal learners are taught to respond with sign language. I have since learned that there is an effective pre-program called Visual Phonics. I am not familiar with it, but interested persons may wish to look into it.

Parts two and three of Martha Gabler's essay will run the next two Fridays 
(December 13 and December 21).

Martha Gabler is the mother of a 17 year old nonverbal boy with severe autism. From her experience in working with her son she founded Kids’ Learning Workshop LLC, a tutoring center specializing in the use of Direct Instruction for learners with special needs. She is also the author of Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism; this book describes how to use positive reinforcement along with an event marker signal to increase functional behaviors in a child with autism. See www.autismchaostocalm.com.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How Rocket Learned to Read

I'm more familiar with the hyperlexic aspects of the spectrum than with the difficulties some kids find with decoding. Still, this cute picture book seems an useful adjunct to me if you're trying
to get your child to understand the linkage between the
abstract alphabetical symbols and the stories they can tell.
It may help make the leap between letters and words
easier.

Little Rocket the dog needs help.
He loves to be read to, but he can't get the stories
out of the books himself.
Fortunately, little yellow bird knows what to do.
Start with the alphabet. The perfect teacher for
Rocket - until Little Yellow Bird leaves for the Winter.

The main plus of this book is its concrete approach
to the alphabet and clear connection between letters
and reading.
Random House offers a study guide for the book to
increase its usefulness to beginning readers and you
can find other useful ways to use the book on the web.
 (yes there's an app).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tommysaurus Rex

What if a T - Rex followed your son home?
Would you let him keep it as a pet?
That's the premise of this comic book (sorry, graphic
novel) by Doug TenNapel.
The language and situations are fairly realistic and 
mature (once you accept that a living T-Rex survived
millennia buried in a cave and is dog like except for
the eating cows business).
The dinosaur's giant bodily functions come off big in
the book. Very enjoyable for younger readers, but
you'll have to decide if you want them to read the 
words p--- and c--- and enjoy the graphic pictures
of same.
The family relationships are to the far side of ideal.
The dad complains about his boy's dog right before
a vehicle kills it, and the parents are delighted to 
dump their grieving son with his grampa for the
whole summer. Another boy is a bully (he makes Ely
eat dog p---) because his father has abandoned the
family. Other adults also behave selfishly.
Only the Grampa is wise and kindly, but he's also
manipulative and prevaricates a lot. Also, you have to
question his sanity. Sure, the kid would be upset if he 
couldn't keep the T-Rex. But those people who just lost
their house to the dinosaur look pretty upset too .  .  .
If your kid likes dinosaurs, or you're looking for a well-
illustrated story for reading ages 6 - 12, I still recommend the book. It's a comic book (I mean graphic novel) after all, 
with a silly premise. The somewhat realistic portrayal of adult motivations are likely meant to amuse the adults.  
The treatment of bullies may be of special interest to readers
with autism and may open discussions for all readers (Why do 
you think Randy says mean things? Is Randy happy or unhappy?
Why? Do you think the other kids should tease Randy about his
dad?).
Readers who like color pictures and few words per page will
rejoice.
-Spectrum Mom
"You can't expect a creature to just eat all of your problems away."
Tommysaurus Rex
Doug TenNapel
with color by Katherine Garner
Graphix, A division of Scholastic
2013
140pp

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Stinky Cheese Man Returns

This afternoon I found my son reading 
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales 
by Jon Sciezka
and wondered 
"How many times has he read that book?"
I don't know, but I do know he was reading
it three (!) years ago when I wrote this post.
A post in which I do a better job of venting
my frustration that he's still reading The
Stinky Cheese Man than I do of describing
The Stinky Cheese Man. Which I'll probably
do again, but I'll give description another try.
The characters in the stories use as many words
to argue about the nature of their tales and
their presentation in the book as they do to actually
participate in stories. Not surprisingly, the
stories don't amount to much in terms of 
action. These odd parodies and
commentaries on the original fairy tales
rarely make enough narrative sense to
qualify as stories in their own right.
Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk" tries to run
the book, but ends up running away. 
The pictures are big and bold and weird 
and cover the pages as does the sprawling
text which seems to have as little notion of
consistency as the stories do.
I have no idea why this book appeals to him
so. But in all likelihood, its absurdity will
endear it to any kid old enough to have
heard "Run, run as fast as you can" more
than once.
I asked my son about the book and he has memorized
much of it. Here's what he told me. This should give 
you a feel for the material. And yes, this is a fairly
accurate quote from the book. 
"The Stinky Cheese Man had bacon for a mouth
and olives for eyes. In 'Jack's Bean Problem' the giant
said 'Fee Fi Fum Fory I have made my own story.
I'll grind your bones to make my bread.' And Jack
says 'Giants talking in upper case letters really messes
up the page.' 'The End of the evil stepmother who said 
I'll huff and I'll snuff and I'll give you three wishes. And the
Beast turned into seven dwarves. Happily Ever After. 
For a spell had been cast by a wicked witch. Once Upon a Time.'
And Jack says 'That's not a fairly stupid tale, that's
an incredibly stupid tale. Awk!'
The reason why Jack said awk is that the giant dragged
Jack to the next page."
Mom
ps an image search turned up a Stinky Cheese Man 
tattoo. That is just wrong.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Most RecomMended 3


When my son was very small, I read him a Fisher-Price book from who knows where. A flimsy book with a 
flimsy colorful cover with pages stapled in, and
then falling out, and then taped in, again and again
and again, because even though he had the whole
book memorized he wanted to read it again. 
And again.
And again.
It is now more tape than book and I swear I will
throw it out after posting this. Really, I will.
He can't really need to read this again?
(sigh)
Perhaps he does. But I may throw it out anyway.*
We've been trying to make the teenage divide 
visible to him.
Anyway,
Little People Opposite Safari is filled with simple big pictures and simple rhymes.
“Let’s go on safari.
There’s nothing to lose.
Remember your camera,
And wear comfy shoes.”
The rhymes are logical, the little Fisher-Price people and animals
direct and engaging with the opposites bolded for quick emphasis:
“The monkeys climb up, the lions lie down,
They’re all smiles, except for one
rhino’s frown.” 
This flimsy paperback soon became more scotch tape than paper.
Oddly, I never sought out the others in the series, perhaps because
though it clearly satisfied a craving for my son, the merchandizing link
and the simplistic structure became a bit much for me after a while.
If you’ve a source for old paperbacks, the others in the series are:
Alphabet Farm
Number Circus
Color and Shape Shop
-Spectrum Mom
* I tried to recycle it, my husband fished it out and said "But I read this to him hundreds of times!" It's currently in his car.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mercy Watson


Kate DiCamillo long since conquered children’s publishing with a Newbery, Boston Horn Book Award, and as a National Book Award finalist. 
Two films based on her books didn’t hurt her reputation any
(though I thought the animated Tale of Desperaux ill-advised to jettison most of the original story).
But the books which most appeal to my family are her starter chapter picture books starring the “porcine wonder,” 
Mercy Watson (Theodore Geisel award). 
Mr. and Mrs. Watson as depicted by illustrator van Dusen 
are rather round and pink themselves, so perhaps their adoption of a pig as surrogate daughter should
not surprise us.
Mercy’s immense fondness for buttered toast and willingness to sleep tucked up in a child’s bed may puzzle adults, 
but children rarely worry about such trifles,
focusing instead on Mercy's attempts to drive a car 
and capture a thief (among other exploits).
Again, the series format allows kids a chance to get familiar with the characters,
who include not only the Watsons, but their neighbors, 
the elderly Lincoln sisters (Eugenia and Baby, who both embody and defy older women in kids' stories stereotypes),
and various bit players like Officer Tomallelo.
I've mentioned Mercy before, as a librarian pick, and
if you're interested in finding other good choices for elementary readers, you may want to visit that blog 
entry. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hiatus Again

On hiatus again because of life events.
Please sign up for autism reads on twitter or
facebook to be notified of new postings.
In the meantime, please enjoy my past
200 plus postings.

Thank you,
Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Reading 2 - The Outsiders

Back again after a summer break - Nashville's insane school schedule means my son handed in his book reports Monday. Unlike his typically developing peers, he spent almost every day during his short summer laboring to read these books.
Then came the painful process of sitting down with him and trying to cue him in to remember some of what he read and prompt him on what he might write in response.
(btw Pardon the blah look of this post, I'll try to add a photo later, and quotes from his reports. For now, bare bones to get me back into writing myself)
His second book of the summer was The Outsiders.
I know very little about his relationship to this one, except that
it took the entire month of July for him to read the book, with
the patient help of his dad.
The Outsiders is about the greasers and the socs, and a neighbor
of ours remembered that divide and described it vividly to my
son. I don't think he heard.
In the book, the tension between the two groups leads to violence
and death. The lead character, Ponyboy, survives to tell the tale.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kids' Paper Air Plane Book


Airplanes!
While most adults now see them as a tedious necessity, 
(oh wait, that’s airport security) 
many children see them as a source of delight. 
Some kids with autism can’t get enough plane facts and never rest till they have been in a cockpit 
(harder to arrange now, but not impossible).
Paper airplanes, while beyond the fine motor and motor skills of some (like me), are a wonderful diversion for others. 
Paper airplane building provides a quiet, engrossing pastime with a result peers can admire. And if your kid does have a passion for planes, don’t assume the folding challenge is beyond them. 
Despite fine motor and motor planning deficiencies, 
my boy can play the piano. 
I assume it’s because he really wants to do so.
The Kids’ Paper Airplane Book gives kids a basic knowledge 
of paper airplane flights. At the back, the authors provide 
full color sheets to fold along with complete instructions
and a flight log. 
If your kid has even higher flight ambitions, Ken Blackburn
and Jeff Lammers also wrote The World Record Paper
Air Plane Book.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Reading - The Giver

Long time readers may have noted that I have not yet wailed over the choice of summer reading books that my son must read this Summer. There are several reasons for this:
  1. There was no choice to make, just two books he needs to read.
  2. The two books are good books.
  3. When you're going into eighth grade, there are mighty few inappropriate subjects any more, sad or glad, you should be ready to read it.
Of course, my boy is not ready to read these books. The books are age appropriate, and he's lagging behind in several key areas. 
So we started with The Giver, the milder of the two books and one I thought he had some connection to through The Giver treehouse at Cheekwood. Plus I have read it before and there is a ton of information about it out there.
It has been hard going, and asking for help online brought up a new concept for me-working memory. Is my son's inability to remember what words mean due to a deficiency in this area? 
Or is it that he cannot visualize what he reads?
His lack of comprehension goes beyond his inability to understand words from their context. He was unable to recall what a hatchet was when he encountered the word "hatchet" in the text.
Very disturbing, since he read Hatchet for school and I thought he actually engaged with it rather strongly.
The Giver interests him little.
In case you don't know or can't recall, The Giver was the first really popular dystopian novel for young adults 
(if you're feeling bitter about Hunger Games
blame Lowry (or credit her if you're a Hunger fan))
Jonas is about to go through the ceremony of twelve in
his community and find out what his lifetime job assignment will be. Much to his alarm, he is given the previously unknown to him task of Receiver of Memory. The knowledge he receives from the
current receiver reveals to him how much of feeling and life 
has been kept from the people of the community in order to keep 
everyone calm and cooperative. As his memories and feelings 
deepen, he finds he can no longer accept the status quo. The 
revelation of what "release" really means drives him to action,
and he flees to freedom.
What happens to Jonas at the end of the book is ambiguous, and 
upset my husband. It did not upset my son who took the words
literally (no surprise there).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Most RecomMended 2 - Stripey the Caterpillar

Perhaps you remember How Are You Peeling
the most mended book in my house?
Today's book is almost that mended.
Stripey the Caterpillar is a colorful book with a caterpillar
finger puppet who travels through the pages 
before becoming the center part of a fold-out butterfly poster.
Not surprisingly, Stripey soon became separated from the
book. And the poster became torn and taped and torn again.
But, what a favorite! My boy still likes to curl up in a
blanket ("I'm in a chrysalis!") and then become a butterfly.
A powerful if oft-used metaphor for children, especially ours.
The story starts with Stripey feeling a bit sick.
"Not terrible, just a bit sick.
Maybe a different colored flower will help,
Stripey thought. So off he went."
And so he goes through the book, with 
red flower giving way to blue, to yellow,
to little white flowers, until he takes a nap
and feels completely better as a butterfly.
The flowers pop-up in a mild way,
the language is clear, and the words are large.
Most importantly, the puppet is fuzzy and wiggly.
If you can handle the repeated readings (and tapings, 
unless your child is far more careful than mine) 
this is a winning read aloud by Katie George.
I have another much mended book in mind to
recommend, but so far I've only found pieces of
it on the floor .  .  .
-Spectrum Mom


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Along Came a Dog

This is an odd review because I haven't read this book to a kid.
But many kids have strong interests in dogs, and my neighborhood
now lets you raise chickens, so this book seemed timely. 
There must be kids out there fascinated by dog/chicken behavior, right?
One of my favorite authors for kids, Erik P. Kraft,  
has become so chicken obsessed he even blogs and podcasts 
on the subject, so if you have a chicken loving child, 
there is ample material for them to hear/view
(enjoy his stuff yourself first, not all of his chicken experiences may be appropriate for younger or more sensitive viewers, 
though most are funny).
Getting back to the book: 
Along Came a Dog is by Meindert De Jong, 
author of The Wheel on the School
and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. 
It's the story of a little red hen,
(my boy would quote you the A. A. Milne poem), 
her owner, and a stray dog looking for a home.
It is filled with interesting examples of chicken and dog behavior,
and human misunderstanding of same.
Since this is a children's book, all ends happily, though there is
one animal death (the bossy rooster).
Don't expect much from the Sendak illustrations which
never rise above the serviceable. Their presence may
help if your child is still transitioning from picture books, 
and likes to find a few illustrations when flipping through, 
or if your child has trouble visualizing characters.
I think of this one as a read aloud from about six to twelve,
but it could be a good read alone for eight to thirteens, 
especially if your child is speeding ahead of you in their
interest in animals. The emotions are simple, and motivations
are clear. The man likes animals, and he wants his own
poultry farm. The hen wants a family of chicks. 
The dog, as previously mentioned, wants a home.
De Jong's books, like those of Dick King-Smith,
have animals at their heart. But unlike King-Smith 
(Babe, Lady Lollipop) De Jong avoids fantasy and 
anthropomorphic animals. His animals behave like
real animals, while remaining lovable companions.
While I adore fantasy, I think that stories grounded in
reality may have special value for kids with autism.
So if you're looking for reality, dogs, and chickens,
read this to your child. And please tell me how it 
goes! 
-Spectrum Mom