Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gifts for Kids with Autism 2014

For years my boy just asked for a gift. 
That was the only clue, "a gift."
He's come a long way, and now sometimes
says, "I don't have the words."
This year he wants "a Christmas book,"
so - well, I'll wander over to Parnassus
Bookstore (I'm a huge fan of independent
bookstores) and turn the problem over
to them.

If you have a lead like "Christmas" or "Dinosaurs,"
you are in good shape. 
Sandra Boynton's Christmastime is an all time 
Christmas favorite.
Quirky animal characters combined with a gently
humorous analysis of all aspects of the holiday season
to provide a richly satisfying read. 
Boynton is even better known for board books,
For dinosaur demanders I recommend
The Big Fearon Book of Dinosaurs
Black and white line drawings illustrate brief
descriptions of dinosaurs. Activities include
coloring pages and sequencing. Elementary level.
World of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Life
by Dougal Dixon.
Full color pictures and easy to understand layout
(name, description on left, picture in center, fact
file column on right) make this a winner for almost
any age, though those who have memorized the
prehistoric era will likely find nothing new.
For the youngest dinosaur lovers, head 
back to Boynton with Oh My, Oh My, Oh
If you don't have a lead, you might want to 
look through some of my past entries here. I also
like Chinaberry for its wonderful descriptions.
If you want toys as well as books, I like Hearthsong -
I just ordered my boy his second perplexus maze since
he adored his first one until his brother threw it across
the room one too many times.
Large toys that create small enclosed spaces are often
popular with our sensory seeking kids -
Please add your gift suggestions! Comments welcome.
And Happy Chanukkah, Merry Christmas, Serene Kwanzaa,
Peaceful Winter Solstice - however you celebrate this time
of year, may you find peace and happiness with your
(Fellow Boynton fans should click on Christmastime
You're welcome. Yes, I do accept chocolate.)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thoughts on Gifts for Children with Autism

At this time of year, our thoughts turn to 
how to delight our kids on whichever holiday 
we give gifts.
If your kid has autism, this may be a
challenging and even a sad task.
Maybe your kid doesn't talk. 
Maybe your kid doesn't understand
the whole gift thing. 
You may look at other busy shoppers
clutching their mile long lists and feel
But I'm here to say you have a good
shot at making the kid you love happy.
You've got this one. You really do.
Throw out the "Best of Lists" and the
"Hot Toys" recommendations and think
about when you see smiles, when
you hear giggles, and when your kid's 
heart is happy. 
If your kid does Occupational, Physical,
or Speech Therapy, there may be a
ready made list of stuff your kid 
would just love to find at home.
Your kid has their own interests -
and there may be a toy that fits
with that, but you don't have to
limit yourself to traditional toys.
If what your kid would really like
is a big squishy beanbag or papasan
chair, don't worry that it's not a toy. 
Your kid may play with it for hours.
One gift like a swing or hugglepod or
bodysock or mini trampoline is
better than a dozen of the latest popular
plastic plaything - I think for all kids,
but particularly for those who haven't
asked for the Toys R Us profit makers,
and won't be disappointed not to get
And books make great gifts too!
Here's the ones I gave my boy last year,
and here are two print gift suggestions.
I will get around to posting some book
gift ideas, I promise - just as soon as I buy
some gifts for my boys.
Have a great gift idea? Please share!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Native American/Aboriginal Peoples

On this day before Thanksgiving, it makes sense to 
me to think about the non-Pilgrims at the Thanksgiving
table and in the rest of the country we now
call the U.S.A.
Unfortunately, I don't know which books from this category
would appeal to kids on the spectrum. My boy liked 
the counting book about the Wampanoag, I'll find
you the link later (the kids are home today). But
the others fit neither into the required for school or
the want to read on his own category.
So here's a list from the Mighty Girl blog -
your favorites would be oh so welcome!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Free to Be You and Me

Back in the 1970s Marlo Thomas and some of her friends addressed overcoming gender stereotypes in stories and song. 
Free to Be You and Me came out as a book and 
as an Emmy award winning television program in 1974.
A year or so ago I bought the book for my oldest boy and 
last week I brought home a cd of the television show. 
We put it on, and there, in slightly faded technicolor, was my early childhood, filled with hope, joy, and bell bottoms.
My older son happily quoted the book and settled in 
for a predictable show. He stayed with it all the way
through, which doesn't happen that much any more.
He likes to know something inside and out, that's part 
of the way he thinks, so this was perfect.

"Wow" said my younger son at the wide array of vibrant colors and patterns,
"they sure dressed fancy."
All of the discussion about being yourself no matter
what gender you are should seem naive and
irrelevant forty (!) years later. 
But a surprising (and somewhat saddening to me) 
amount of what Marlo and friends said back then 
still needs to be said in our fairly rigid gender 
stereotyped culture. Girls are still judged on
whether they're "pretty," boys on whether they're
"big and strong."
I think the straight forward discussion of the wide 
range of options for both genders can help kids with 
autism who are particularly susceptible to prescriptive
thinking. And the message "we don't have to change
at all" may reassure our kids who sometimes receive
the opposite message.
"William Wants a Doll" is a story song that says 
we don't play by gender. This may not be needed 
by many of our kids, who are often oblivious to 
indirect peer pressure,
but it has a nice message about nurturing and
how important dads are.
Other highlights include "It's All Right to Cry," 
(as sung by the world's cuddliest Football player, 
Rosie Grier), which gives permission for kids to be 
sad. The conversation about brothers and sisters shows 
real unscripted kids in a positive and honest
interaction. I can't remember the last time I saw that on 
tv or in a video.
Since the book is available, your kid with autism can
have the luxury mine did of knowing what the show
is all about from the beginning. Warning - if your
kid is prone to echolalia, you may be hearing 
some of these lines and songs for a long time.
The illustrations inside are better, I promise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Touch and Feel Story Books

Here's a great idea for somebody to pick up and run with -
Touch and Feel Books for older kids.
I've written about the need for sturdy board books at
a higher reading level before, but I hadn't thought 
about this.
Lots of kids process information through 
texture, a teacher who works with kids with special needs
mentioned this texturephilia.
And we realized that touch and feel books
are only for little kids.
In a quick web search, I found some bible stories,
and that's it. And the bible stories book is
clearly for itty bitty kids too.
Think of reading The Pearl with a smooth rounded
texture in the appropriate place in the text, 
Old Yeller or Love that Dog with a furry patch
to pet. Kids who disengage from narrative
(like mine) might be pulled back in through
Touch and feel patches would also make 
great additions to braille books-an expert I
spoke with today mentioned the use of
a touch and feel Going on a Lion Hunt with 
a student with sight impairment.
But Boynton's wonderful Dinosaur's Binket
represents the most complex touch and feel
book I know.
I am happy to adapt a classic for this approach
(Treasure Island anyone?). 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love That Cat - Cat Books, Part 1

Rainbocalico by holly lu conant rees
Actually, I have no idea if there will be a Cat Books Part 2.
I am hoping you will send an indignant comment/email, 
"How could you forget about ______!"
Then I can write Part 2.
Here, in roughly reading level order: 
The Shy Little Kitten (Golden Book)
The Golden Book series offers 
gentle, sweet tales for kids, often with a
very sympathetic animal protagonist.
The Shy Little Kitten is by Cathleen Schurr and illustrated by 
Gustaf Tenggren, illustrator of The Poky Little Puppy.
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat
by Cynthia Rylant.
The Henry and Mudge books are kid favorites.
with lots of illustrations and short, easy
chapters, these fun boy/dog tales are
great early readers. In this one Henry adopts
an ugly cat who becomes great friends with
his dog Mudge.
Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
My boy loved this book because of its
poem format. He didn't engage with the
story of a boy struggling with his mother's
deafness. But he really enjoyed
the look of the words on the page and
all the other poems at the back of the 
-Spectrum Mom

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Talent Tuesday - Spotlight on Gifts

Pretend today is Tuesday.
Talent Tuesday is when I feature books by people in
the autism community.
Two of my favorite people/authors in the community
are Leo and Leisa.
Leo is a young adult with autism. 
Leisa has a daughter with autism.
Leo’s book follows a ferret.
Leisa’s book follows families. 
I’m thinking about them because 
I’m thinking about the many talents
people with autism have.
Leo’s authorship is not just his gift of words.
His book demonstrates his gifts of focus and determination.
Leisa’s book features many talented people with
autism, especially her daughter Grace (Grace
creates amazing art).
We all have unique ways of engaging with the
Sometimes these ways trip us up. 
Sometimes they let us soar.
The stereotyped picture of someone with autism 
too often misses their talents entirely or dismisses 
them as something freakish - “splinter skills” or
“savant ability” as if they are not connected to
the person and all that they are. 
These gifts offer others the wonderful 
chance to better understand how that person interacts 
with us and the world.
I want to share this perspective. I’m still working on how. 
Will you help me? Would you send me a note about your gifts
(if you have autism) or your kid's (any age with autism) gifts?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When Your Kid Rejects Your Favorite Kids' Books Part 2

Last week I asked for your suggestions on what to
do when your children reject your favorite books.
Many thanks to D. Marcotte who sent in a good one -
letting your children select and read the abridged
versions of classic stories.
Here a few of my thoughts:
1) Give them time. 
Every day brings a flood of posts
about other people's second graders reading Harry
Potter or Lord of the Rings. And some kids w autism
may do that. But most kids with or without autism
will not. That is OKAY. If you introduce a favorite
that is soundly rejected, wait a year or two and try again.
2) Be sneaky. 
My father had beloved books that he would offer with
a kind of righteous urgency usually reserved for green
vegetables at dinner (he hated vegetables so he had a
lot of urgency to spare). This meant I avoided Kim and
King of the Khyber Rifles for months - but when he stopped
talking about them and just left them in my way, I read and
loved them. Don't make a speech about the book, just 
hand it over when they're in the back seat of the car
or looking bored.
3) Be direct.
Get it out and start reading it at bedtime. Put the
audio version on at home or on the road. If they
hate it, go back to number one.
4) Watch the video.
If you want to share the story, but the book presents
a barrier, there's probably a movie or tv version 
somewhere. Find it and share that way.

Now I know there are more and better suggestions
out there. Make them! Make them here!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Your Kid Rejects Your Favorite Kids' Books Part 1

If you're like me, you couldn't wait to open up 
Alice in Wonderland,  Wind in the Willows
and the other books you adored as a kid and share them with your child.
If you did, and you and your child joyously bonded as
you read, mazel tov. You can stop reading now.
That did not happen for me. While we started
happily enough with Boynton, there quickly came
a day when he rejected But Not the Hippopotamus,
and soon wouldn't let me read to him at all. 
We worked through it.
He enjoyed almost all of Dr. Seuss and Madeline,
though he started to prefer to read to himself.
Next came The Nursery Alice which I doggedly
read aloud, despite the calm apathy he radiated.
And that was about it. Subsequent attempts
with The Jungle Book and Just So Stories 
were unwelcome and I cut them short.
I started looking somewhat desperately
for what he would like, while he contentedly
read and reread Dr. Seuss.
(digression Your Favorite Seuss is in his
high school library-do other kids his age
still read Seuss?).
What to do?
I don't have a solution, just some thoughts. 
But this post is long enough.
Why don't you comment, email me
- or post
on the autismreads facebook page.
And I'll be back next week with what
wisdom I can muster.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dragons Part Two - Flying Higher

In some ways, I'm totally out of my depth
writing about chapter books for kids with
autism. My son reads them for school 
with great difficulty and does not read
them for pleasure. 
If you are or have a teenager with autism that
likes to read books for teenagers-send me
a review! 
Fame, glory, (as much as I
get - in other words, close to nil) 
near complete anonymity can be yours!
(I have to know who you are)
I continue to read books about dragons myself.
Anne McCaffrey
explored the glory of raising a dragon
in The Dragonriders of Pern series.
One of her best is The White Dragon about a "misfit"
dragon and isolated boy which I discuss more here.
The Dragon Book features short stories
by contemporary fantasy writers 
(Tad Williams is the best, and your
teen may also love Tailchaser's Song).
For a reader mature enough to handle
a fair amount of sadness and death,
(not younger than 13, 15 would probably
be better) I recently discovered 
Patricia Briggs'
Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood,
extremely satisfying books, with a
fascinating view of dragons.
I don't remember the dragon (s?) in
Guards, Guards! but Terry Pratchett
is hilarious and older teens love him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dragons - for the Young Flyers


If your child is fascinated with dragons,
there are some wonderful books out there.
The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame*
is a gentle, funny fable about a misunderstood
dragon and the boy who helps him find a way
to coexist with those who fear him
(for a contemporary graphic novel take, 
look at The Monster on the Hill-a dragonish
creature who isn't scary enough).
The Reluctant Dragon boasts a Disney movie
and a play based on it as well.
You may already know the How to Train Your
Dragon movies are based on the books by Cressida
Cowell. They're fun. (I've a special
liking for the picture book that started it all-
Hiccup the Viking-but it's not Dragony).
Elsewhere on the blog I've discussed
My Father's Dragon, an excellent series 
for read aloud or early chapter books.
Dav Pilkey's Dragon series is as funny
and goofy as you would expect from the Captain 
Underpants writer, but much sweeter than
you might think and bridges the gap
between picture book and chapter book.

Next week I'll give some choices for more
advanced readers. I already wrote about
my favorite for tweens/teens here.
*a note about today's links - "Monster" & "here" take
you elsewhere in the blog. "Dragon" takes you to Amazon
and the lush Michael Hague illustrated edition.
Full disclosure: If a lot of you click through and buy that, they'll give me a credit.
Not to worry, I've earned one $20 credit in the five years I've blogged.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Back to Johnny Boo

Currently my boy with autism is struggling with The Odyssey.
I really don't have anything to say about that yet,
other than that it's slightly ridiculous to expect him
to understand The Odyssey.
But if you want your kid to get a regular diploma .  .  .
My reluctant reader without autism is reading
Johnny Boo.
A few things about this make it relevant to this blog:
1  Full color pages with a few words per page invite
many reluctant readers.
2  Graphic Novels/Comics appeal to kids.
For more of those, see this post.
3  He's reading it in the car.
With both boys, if I hand them a book in the car, 
or leave a book in the car, they at least look at it.
This puts that book a few dozen nags ahead of 
other books.

On another note, if you're in the Nashville area,
don't forget The Billy Goats Gruff Creative
Dramatics Story Time at Green Hills Library
at 10:30.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Billy Goats and Trolls at the Library

Since my boy loves to trit trot over any bridge,

this story seemed a natural one for our kids to 

enjoy and act out.

I hope to see some Nashville area friends

at the Green Hills Library at 10:30 this

Saturday morning to share a fun, no 

pressure to perform, freedom to make noise,

stim, or hide away, good time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Play some games and act out a story with Christine Mather, PhD, a playwright and theatre educator. A time for kids to do as little or as much as they want (and maybe catch the acting bug!). Sign up is encouraged but not required.
Contact: Green Hills Library (615) 862-5863

Here's the link to the library website description.