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 
-Spectrum Mom

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Talent Tuesday - How to Be Human

In How to Be Human, Florida Frenz chronicles her journey figuring out how to read facial expressions, how to make friends, how to juggle all the social cues that make school feel like a complicated maze. Diagnosed with autism as a two-year-old, Florida is now an articulate 15-year-old whose explorations into how kids make friends, what popularity means, how to handle peer pressure will resonate with any pre-teen. For those wondering what it's like inside an autistic child's head, Florida's book provides amazing insight and understanding. Reading how she learns how to be human makes us all feel a little less alien.

“This book is not only an insightful and inspiring journey through the eyes of someone with autism, but a powerful teaching tool for parents, therapists and educators. Florida shows us that with perseverance, guidance and understanding the highest mountains can be climbed.”
Marcia Goldman, autism consultant

"This book is a terrific read for adolescents with ASD and Social
Communication Disorders as well as for all types of caregivers
(professionals and parents). On one hand, Florida's enchanting descriptions
and illustrations help us all to understand better the perspective of those
born to social learning differences. On the other hand this book is filled
with insight and practical strategies to encourage teachers, counselors and
students how they can all work to help each other adapt one's social
thinking and related behaviors to get along in the world, what ever world
they may live in! I love the sensitivity, artistry and ideas that flow from
these pages."
Michelle Garcia Winner
Founder of Social ThinkingR
Speech Language Pathologist, MA-CCC

A teenage author addresses others with autism with a mix of expressive drawings and insights from her own experiences intended to help “give your brain the right tools to reconfigure its hardware.”. . .Frenz has received enviable quantities of parental and professional support from kindergarten on. Still, she’s the one who had to do the work of figuring out how to make her way in the world, and readers with or seeking to understand autism will find her matter-of-fact observations both savvy and easy to absorb.
A distinctive addition to the chorus of writers who are proving that “spectrum disorders” do not equal “silence.” (Self-help. 10-14)
Kirkus Reviews

About the author:
Florida Frenz is the pen name of a high school student who kept a journal as a tool to figure out her emotions and how to read those of others. Diagnosed as retarded and autistic when she was two, Frenz worked intensively for many years with a team of autism and educational specialists. She's succeeded so well that in her new high school, she isn't identified as autistic or special needs and is even taking Advanced Placement classes.
For more on this book, visit the publisher
This book has not yet been released, you can pre-order it at a discount here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Little One Step and Growing Up

It's Wednesday!
Do I have any regular readers left? If so, accept my apologies.
Summer has swamped the schedule.
The other day I was in a virtual discussion about our kids wanting
to be babies again, and a friend suggested this link
Good books, and helpful reviews* which reminded me of how
much we adored Little One Step.
Little One Step helps your child understand that you get places
by putting one foot in front of the other. 
This really helps a tired kid keep going.
On the metaphorical level, the fella above (he's saying
"one step") helps us to remember to focus on the now.
We may not see how to complete the journey, but
we can take the next step.
The illustrations are adorable and expressive,
simple, clean, and uncluttered.
This should appeal to kids from about two to six,
and those who cling to younger books with its
reassuringly few words per page and simple story.
*Way too critical of the Runaway Bunny though, that book is meant for
itty bitty babies/toddlers who want reassurance that Mommy will always be right there.
Rule of thumb, if your child can conduct a book critique and discuss character
motivation and personality, they're past Margaret Wise Brown and Eric Carle
(unless they're already favorites).
Also, I didn't feel that any of the books on the list addressed the central baby/kid dilemma:
- we do expect more of kids than babies
- we do praise and cuddle babies more.
So I wrote a kids' book about that. Can you read it? I don't know. If you know me, 
you probably can. I'm trying to figure out my next little one step for it .  .  .
-Spectrum Mom

Monday, June 17, 2013

All Grown Up Monday - Replays

This post comes by way of Twitter and The Autism Treatment Directory-I know nothing about the book or the method, but using play for child development always gets my attention.
Replays: Using Play to Enhance Emotional And Behavioral Development for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Replays addresses the challenging behaviors of children with autism spectrum disorders through interactive symbolic play. It shows parents and professionals how to help children access their emotions, whether the child is verbal or not, cognitively able or impaired, even-tempered or volatile. The chapters introduce and show readers how to implement Replays, and describe ways of adapting this intervention to address specific issues in different settings and circumstances.
Levine and Chedd present more than just behavioral management strategies in the context of social, emotional and communication development: they have developed a technique that helps children to re-experience, play through and master the complex emotional response states that often lead to ongoing behavioral challenges.
Replays is an easy and fun tool that provides numerous step-by-step examples and illustrations. It enables parents and professionals to guide children with autism spectrum disorders towards mastering, and changing, their emotional and behavioral responses.
If you're interested, click here for more information.

If you want to write a review, send it along to me at

Have a fun week!

Monday, June 10, 2013

All Grown Up Monday - Lost at School

Today's book review comes (with permission-thank you!) from the blog New to Homeschooling/Not New to Autism.

I've been reading a new book by another psychologist who really "gets it" and does a fabulous job explaining "it" to parents and professionals of challenging children. (The book is not about autism--it is a helpful resource to a parent or professional dealing with challenging children or students.) 

Homeschoolers, do NOT let the title turn you off. You'll like this book, too, if you have a challenging child.

Chapter 2 of Lost at School, Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them, by Ross W Greene, Ph.D. is titled, "Kids Do Well If They Can."

On page 10, the opening page of Chapter 2, Green explains that, "When the 'kids do well if they want to' philosophy is applied to a child who is not doing well, then we believe that the reason he's not doing well is because he doesn't want to."

A paragraph later, Dr. Green continues, "By contrast, the 'kids do well if they can' philosophy carries the assumption that if a kid could do well he would do well. If he's not doing well, he must be lacking the skills needed to respond to life's challenges in an adaptive way. ..."

What are those skills? Interestingly, they are pretty much the same concepts, described in new ways, as the skills we are working on in RDI(r) as we work to remediate the core deficits of autism, skills like attention shifting and attention sharing, in what we sometimes refer to as "social skills", and in flexibility and creative problem solving. That's just a short list.

Dr. Green has created a checklist of lagging skills he calls the ALSUP, or Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP) . During a November presentation, he told those of us in attendance that this document is a work in process, and that he will update it periodically, and he told us that it is available on the book web site. The "lost at school" web site is here. Click here for the ALSUP in PDF.

Dr. Green walks a parent and/or professional through the process of gaining the trust of the student, and he teaches you about CPS, or Collaborative Problem Solving, a process that gives the student an opportunity to practice and grow the very skills that are lagging in a way that the child is a very active part of the process.

RDIers will like this book--the ideas fit nicely with what we're doing in "guided participation" applied to autism. I see a lot of similarity with Feuerstein's "MLE" (mediated learning experience), too. I like the way Dr. Greene writes -- the book is filled with anecdotes to illustrate his points.

Those of you who know me know that I am a huge fan of our public library and the service our libraries offer called interlibrary loan. I often borrow a book in order to preview it, to decide if I like it enough to buy it. This one, I bought sight unseen, on a recommendation from another parent, and I'm glad I did, and this time, I am going to suggest you buy this one, because you're going to want to read it with a pencil or highlighter in one hand. ;) And if you get an opportunity to hear Dr. Greene in person, GO! He is a fantastic speaker!

This post originally appeared here where you can find other posts by the reviewer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Salamander Room

The Salamander Room is such a wonderful book that I find 
it hard to believe I haven't written about it yet.
There's an extra good reason to write about it now, 
at least for Nashville.
Warner Park Nature Center chose the title for their current 
Story Walk. Facebook followers may remember the Story Walk, 
a short (very short) trail with pages from a book posted at intervals along the path (for those familiar with Warner Park trails, it's on Little Acorn).
We owned The Salamander Room, but seem to have read it to
pieces. Both boys enjoyed seeing it again on the trail.
I asked my older boy to write about it for you, but he
said he could only remember there was a salamander and
an outside room. That led us to the Reading Rainbow video,
which your kids may enjoy, that describes how people construct indoor animal habitats. Web searching this title yields cool results.
My son wrote this description for me:
Brian would catch insects for the salamander. 
Brian found an orange salamander. He’d sleep in a salamander bed. 
He’d slide in wet leaves and climb up the tree. 
Birds will fly from the ceiling to the sky. Ferns will grow under Brian’s bed. Brian will sleep outside and next to the salamander.
Every part of the salamander story was good in the story walk. 
I like the ponds the frogs will live in. No one has ever climbed trees inside a house before. Sleeping in an outside bed is exciting. If you slept there, you would be closer to the crickets and owls.
This is a keeper. If your child loves nature you may want to buy it.*
May your June be full of nature's magic.
-Spectrum Mom
*if lots of people use this link to buy it, amazon may give me a gift card. Not holding my breath, but thought you should know.