Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Wheel on the School

One of the changes I worry about in reading is the loss 
of access to books.
That sounds ridiculous, because don't all those e-readers and websites give us access to more books?
Yes and no. They do not give us access to the books we do not know. Libraries and bookstores do. At least for now.
Have you ever heard of The Wheel on the School?
The book my six year old says is "the best book I ever read"?
(I read it to him at bedtime)
I am reading it to him because I walked into the library and
found it on a table with its beautiful gold Newbery medal
stamp on the front cover.
This story of school children in the Netherlands who want to attract storks to their village creates suspense from simple
quests.  Lina,overlooked and left out as the only girl at school, starts everything when she writes about the storks that do not
come to their small town of Shora. Grandmother Sibble III
turns out to be a Shora stork expert, and old Douwa 
the source of the all important wagon wheel. As the 
children learn to look in unlikely and seemingly impossible
places for what they want, they discover chubby Eelka is
strong enough to rescue his friends and that the fearsome,
legless Janus can do far more than just terrorize kids who
try to steal fruit from his cherry tree. All of this is part of
a realistic story without a hint of preachiness or condescension.
This is a good story to read with kids who think literally,
with direct action and emotions spelled out.
Some kids may worry more than others about some
of the situations, but all of them are relatively mild.
No kids/parents were harmed in the making of this
-Spectrum Mom 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Education Friday - A Look at Irlen Lenses

I have a friend who is a user of and strong believer in Irlen lenses. 
Since my knowledge of them is nil, I've been net-surfing.
Here's an excerpt of an article from scholastic about the
experiences of one teacher whose students used the overlays.

Colored Overlays — Rose-Colored Glasses of the Reading World?
by Angela Bunyi

"Less than two percent?" That was my response when my supervisor, Dr. Brooks, quoted the statistics that show how many students benefit from using colored overlays while reading. Considering that she holds a reading disabilities doctorate from Vanderbilt University, I trusted her completely. Then, like clockwork, students started to magically bring in the overlays — on their own. “Where did you get this?” I’d ask. “Oh, Mom got it for me at the parent/teacher store. I need it. Bad,” they’d respond. I knew it was time to do a little research and put my question to rest. Do colored overlays really help struggling readers, or is this an attempt to look at the world through rose-colored glasses? Read on to see what I found out.

Irlen Syndrome: Where That Two Percent Number Comes Into Play
A quick Internet search led me to find the stats that show that overlays are geared for children with Irlen syndrome. How many of your students have been identified with this? Probably not any, I am guessing. If you are not familiar with Irlen syndrome, I'll give you a brief summary. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. In terms of reading, for children with Irlen syndrome, print looks different. This means that they read more slowly and less efficiently and have poor comprehension. Symptoms may also include poor depth perception, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, and low self-esteem. Attention to lighting is also important for these students. Fluorescent and bright lights are not their friends. You can read more about this syndrome on the Irlen Method Web site

Putting Overlays to the Test
Much of the population I work with has some of the symptoms described on the Irlen Method site. With nearly 70 students under my care, I could only think of two students that truly seemed to benefit from colored overlays. One was diagnosed with complex visual problems, and the other student is in the middle of testing for dyslexia and potential visual eye tracking issues, among other things. 
But the tipping point came when an ENTIRE grade level of students came in with colored overlays. I carefully shared the news that maybe they didn’t need the overlays. The crowd response of, “Oh yes, we do,” came quickly and strongly. Then one boy dared — I mean, asked — me to put the overlays to the test. He reminded me that I have to complete weekly progress monitoring and could compare past results to current ones, in which the overlays were used. Genius!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fractured Fairy Tales

If there is one thing kids know, it's how the story goes.
You know, the story you've read to them several times,
and that they've heard at school, and maybe at the library.
The story, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or The Three
Little Pigs, that they've seen in cartoons, or in a puppet show,
or even acted out themselves.
And kids with autism really know the story, down to the hair
on its chinny chin chin. And kids with autism don't like change, so you don't change the story. Ever.
Except when you do. And they love it.
That is, you don't accidentally read the wrong word, 
because that is upsetting and may require some 
discussion and some serious calming actions. 
You can deliberately change the story and that just might be the funniest and best thing ever if your kid thinks that changing just one word in a well known phrase is a terrific joke (mine does).
And when you get Mo Willems getting all meta with Goldilocks
and introducing Norwegian dinosaurs into the mix you get a pretty great book. 
And Corey Rosen Schwartz manages to keep up the rhymes
for her entire silly riff with the three pigs and their foray into martial arts-and you know how important rhyme can be to a kid with autism.
And Ahlberg finds half a dozen ways to get Goldilocks into trouble with tabs to pull and flaps to lift and who doesn't like doing that?
(warning: this book seems suited to a gentle, not overly physical reader)
Have I mentioned before that I was convinced my son did not have autism because the article they gave me said kids with autism did not have a sense of humor? Well, these books exactly suit his (supposedly nonexistent) sense of humor, 
and may do so for your kids too. 
Here are that boy's reviews and the full title of Ahlberg's book:

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz Illustrated by Dan Santat
"There once were three ninja pigs. The first one took beginner aikido. The second one took jujitsu and learned how to block and punch. The last one chose the art of karate. Near the end, they learned that ninjas rule! They devoted themselves to their training."

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
"There once were three dinosaurs. They cooked three bowls of chocolate pudding. Goldilocks came to the dinosaurs’ house.  She thought it was the bears’ house. She ate the chocolate pudding that was too hot. She ate the chocolate pudding that was too cold. All three chairs were too tall. I think the book is strange because it’s different from the original story. It’s funny."

and the Three Bears
and the 33 Bears
and the Bliim
and the Furniture
Words Allan Ahlberg  Pictures Jessica Ahlberg

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Autism Blogs.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Hoot is a fine, fun book for tweens and teens. No parent
is mortally ill, no one is kidnapped, no siblings go missing, 
Nazis don't kill anyone .  .  . You get the picture. As my
son said, "I didn't dislike it because nothing made me sad.
But the book made me very sad, because we spent hours
together reading and talking about the story, and my 
son remembers almost nothing about it. And they worked
on it at school too.
He doesn't remember whether Roy wanted the pancake
house or the owls (it's the owls). He doesn't remember
where Mullet Fingers was running from (the construction
site) or what he did there (left alligators and snakes) to
stop them from burying the owls. He doesn't remember
that the owls burrow, not nest in trees.
He remembers that Dana bullied Roy (he likes that 
Dana is a boy because "Dana is usually a girl's name").
He remembers that Mullet Fingers ran.
He remembers Curly's real name (trust me, this is not
important to the plot), and that Kimberly Lou Dixon
played Mother Paula.
He can tell me the plots of Holes, and Hatchet - books
we read last year. But not Hoot.
Something is really wrong.
So if you thought I had answers,
(instead of suggestions)
now you know.
I don't.
If you do, or even just ideas, please comment.
Thank you.
Sadly yours,
-Spectrum Mom