Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Redefining {beau*ti*ful} by Jenna Lucado with Max Lucado

I remember being a teenager, with all of the insecurities that come with that stage. Dealing with the image looking back at me in the mirror (never what I wanted it to be); navigating the course of friendships and boys; wanting to be liked by everyone -- I went through what everyone goes through at that age.

Jenna Lucado (daughter of pastor, teacher, and best-selling author Max Lucado) did too.

I would have liked to have had a book like this when I was a teenager. Sometimes, teens don't realize that the feelings and experiences they have are common to all teens.

Jenna relates to young girls with stories from her own tween and teen years. Whether the reader has a wonderful relationship with her dad, or doesn't know her dad, or anything in between, Lucado and her dad write for every girl as she shares from her heart and from scripture, the definition of "beautiful" from our Heavenly Father.

In Redefining Beautiful, What God Sees When God Sees You
, ($12.99 from Thomas Nelson) Jenna covers all of the topics that can create insecurities for tweens and teens in a book/journal that guides readers through a journey of redefining beautiful, a definition that comes through the eyes of a Father.

My 12-year-old was too busy with homework and the review period too short for her to get to do more than skim "Redefining Beautiful," and she says it looks "cool!" and she asked me if she could write in it. (ABSOLUTELY!) I'll follow up with her input when she's had time and space to dive into it.

Watch Jenna Lucado chat about the book HERE.

Homeschooling the Child with AUTISM Book Review

When a child is diagnosed with autism, the parents often feel inadequate to intervene and to teach that child. There is a mindset that teaching individuals on the autism spectrum is best left to "professionals", when in fact, to quote Dr Jeannette McAfee in the forward of Homeschooling the Child with Autism,

"...a homeschool environment can be the single most effective place for some children with autism to learn, grow and achieve their maximum potential. In many cases, a child learning at home will acquire far more knowledge and experience in social skills, academic skills, life skills, and executive functioning than he or she would absorb in a typical classroom setting."

Homeschooling the Child With Autism, Answers to the Top Questions Parents and Professionals Ask, by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall, ($22.95 from JOSSEY-BASS TEACHER, a Wiley Imprint)

McAfee states that,

"Authors Schetter and Lighthall have done an excellent job of debunking the myth that only credentialed teachers can teach academic subjects successfully."

And McAfee is correct.

If you are a parent who is wrestling with the idea of homeschooling a child who has an autism diagnosis, Schetter and Lighthall have pulled together information to help you through the decision. The authors included a great deal of input from five homeschooling moms whose children are on the autism spectrum, allowing readers to peek into their lives and homeschools in a way that reveals the creativity and flexibility that homeschooling allows a family and the opportunities for success at home that were not possible in a school-based setting.

Take a peek: Table of Contents is HERE; Chapter 1 is available HERE.

The homeschooling moms are generous in their descriptions of what they do at home. The authors and the moms provide some troubleshooting and "how to" strategies and they provide resources for more information, as well. In Parent Perspective sections, they offer readers "snapshots" of what they're able to do better or differently to meet individual needs via a home setting.

As a parent using a neurodevelopmental, relationship approach of intervention with my daughter, I disagree with some (not all) of the material devoted to teaching social skills and social thinking. They do offer some really wonderful descriptions of social opportunities (there are quite a lot when you homeschool, which surprises people.)

When I received my copy, I jumped to the back of the book to read the Q&A with the moms and the interviews with the students. I like that section a lot!

If you're new to homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum or are considering homeschooling as an option, this book will be helpful to you. If you're homeschooling a child and are struggling through some challenges, you will find the Parent Perspective sections helpful, as other homeschooling moms share what worked or didn't work for them. School teachers may find some of the strategies helpful in a school setting as well.

Homeschooling the Child With Autism, Answers to the Top Questions Parents and Professionals Ask, by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall is a solid resource, particularly for newbies and those sitting on the proverbial homeschooling fence.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Building Resilience

My firstborn princess asked me yesterday why I put so much of the younger princess's skating on my blog. My answer: I love to see the skating princess stretching herself in new ways. That's exciting to me!

Figure skating lessons have given my skating princess a lot of experiences for making new discoveries. The introduction of a new skills and expectations is scary for her, and she's learning that she can handle the both the feelings and the challenge. That's a huge discovery! Those of you who are RDI(r) moms and dads understand the concept of resilience, because Dr. Gutstein talks about it so much.

I continue to be amazed at the motor planning, gross motor coordination and proprioceptive work that happens in each lesson. Each lesson builds on a previous lesson, and I see how lessons stretch and grow her in new ways.

Last week, we saw some bumps on the ice. The skills that coach was teaching her were too difficult, from the perception of my princess, and for the first time since she began taking lessons six months ago, she began asking for breaks during lessons. She began screeching a little, protesting, and even begged to go to the bathroom, something she'd not done during a lesson as an escape before.

So, Coach S. and I brainstormed. We talked about different reasons why those particular skills were sending the skating princess into retreat.

And Coach S. decided to retreat and regroup so that she could set aside for now the skills that were contributing to the bumps.

My princess does not like going backwards -- she's never liked doing anything backwards. Every OT she's had has made her walk backwards on a balance beam. She lets us know how much she hates that (and she can be *loud*!). Today, she handled skating backwards like a pro. The video I shot is too big for the blog. You'll have to trust me -- she's making some discoveries during her skating lessons.

Another Goodie From the Autism Mom, Stephanie Hemenway

The Autism Mom has a new feature:
recipe of the month.

Now I am craving caramel corn.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pondering Relationships and Church

My firstborn princess and I were first time visitors to an area church today. I'd heard through the grapevine that this congregation is including children with developmental disabilities in unique, thinking-outside-the-box ways.

After the early service, I met one of the moms of a child with special needs. She went out of her way to give me a tour and tell me about the church.

She introduced me to one of the directors over programming for children, and as the three of us were chatting, the child with special needs was walking in the halls alone. Suddenly, she was joined by another child about the same age, who, with a bright smile that lit up the hall, wrapped an arm around the first girl, and they looked at one another nose to nose, and grinned at one another, and marched through the hall together. They clearly enjoyed one another's friendship, even though one of the girls is unable to speak.

One of the two women commented on the two girls, "Sarah absolutely loves Abby."

Sarah is the typically developing child who joined Abby in the hall. Abby is the child with developmental delays.

The beauty of the two of them in a loving embrace that revealed a glimpse into the history of that friendship had me blinking back tears.


That's one of the things that's missing; that's one of the things I want at church for my younger princess (who happens to have an asd diagnosis): relationships with peers who absolutely adore her, love her, wrap arms around her and accept her as she is.

"One of the greatest joys of the human experience is to know someone and to be known." Lynne Thompson

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Homemade Weighted Vest

Early Intervention staff introduced us to weighted vests eight or nine years ago as one strategy to use in providing sensory input to the nervous system of a child who needs more input.

Weighted vests ordered from a catalog are expensive. They can be ugly to look at, too. A homemade one, notsomuch.

A wonderful neighbor who sews helped me convert first a boys denim jacket into a weighted vest, and later, a lace-trimmed vest into a weighted vest.

A boy's denim jacket usually has a lower inside pocket, so we did not need to add one there. My neighbor added upper pockets, all the way across the shoulders and upper back area. She used fabric from the sleeves that we removed.

Hint: Look for a denim jacket at your local thrift store, Salvation Army, Goodwill.

I loaded the pockets with strips of modeling clay from the dollar store. The modeling clay can be pressed so that it molds against the shoulders of the child, and an OT can guide you on how much weight to add.

Weighted vests that were used at school make children stand out and look different. They came from a company that makes items for speech and occupational therapists, and, quite frankly, looked "special needs". A weighted vest made from a denim jacket or vest doesn't make the stand out. It looks like clothing (because it IS clothing).

PS: Mom Lori Swan sent me a wonderful suggestion to add to my post. "If you go to Michael's or JoAnn's stores they sell these plastic beads in the doll making supplies. The bags say how much they weigh so you know that. Whatever you make with them can be washed in the washing machine but not dried iin the dryer. I just lay the items on the dryer and they dry fast. I have made a lot of items using them for my son and they work great. We made weighted bean bags to cover him up with and to toss around . He likes them and I can wash them when they get dirty." and Mom Carolyn Gammicchia added, "We made our son's out of a child's fishing vest from Gander Mountain, filled athletic socks with sand, and placed those in the pockets. When the vest needed washing, we removed the socks. I placed fasteners on the inside so they could not be easily opened. But we did leave a couple for him to use. Then we decorated it with Disney stuff and some other cool patches and the kids at school were actually jealous. It was pretty cool." Carolyn continues, "I though would urge folks before using something like a weighted vest or other things like brushing techniques, etc. to consult with an OT that has a background in Sensory Dysfunction. I'm also not a doctor nor expert, but have seen where folks have utilized some sensory integration tools that actually were not specific to their child's needs and actually caused some problems. Also if you are going to go this route and work on sensory dysfuntion, which I'd urge folks to do within your integrative efforts, to get the book "Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration" by Ellen Yack. This book has some directions to make many items yourself also. This book, along with the "Out Sync Child" assisted us a great deal in this area."

Frustration at the bowling alley

Part of our RDI(r) focus is giving the child responsibility for him or herSELF. Responsible for what? The child is growing responsibility in referencing for information, self-regulation, co-regulation, sharing and shifting attention, just to name a few continuous process functions.

Special Olymics bowling began yesterday, and I thought we'd give it a try.

The first session was chaotic, loud, disorganized, confusing, and my princess who has been progressing in big ways, lately, became upset and dysregulated.

The participants were supposed to bowl two games. When my princess was finished with the first game, we left. We drove around for a little while to give her time to self-regulate and calm herSELF down.

I made a discovery about myself:

I am reluctant to stay at or return to an activity where my daughter is overwhelmed to the point that her self-regulation is compromised. When I have to do more work for her than she does for herself, we're DONE. Time to find a place where she feels competent and not overwhelmed where she can manage the things she can for herSELF.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nutrition 101: CHOOSE LIFE / A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

A few months ago, I posted messages to some internet chat groups for homeschoolers asking for recommendations for a unity study on the topic of nutrition. My princess has begun asking which foods are healthy and which ones are not, and when she shows an interest in a topic, I try to feed that interest.

One of the early TOS Crew review items I received this year is just what I wanted, a nutrition program. :)

Growing Health Homes presents Nutrition 101: CHOOSE LIFE, ($79.99 on CD-ROM) a *huge* and thorough program for learning about nutrition and the body systems that are affected by what we eat. The web site explains, "Co-authored by homeschool mother Debra Raybern, N.D., M.H., C.N.C., I.C.A.; homeschool mother and researcher Sera Johnson, B.MU; mother and writer/editor Laura Hopkins, B.S.; and mother, grandmother and former Home Economics teacher Karen Hopkins, B.S."

We received a downloadable version, 448 pages, presented in color. You may peek inside the book HERE --you can see how thorough the program is when you see the table of contents and a portion of the index and appendices section. Please take a few moments to look inside the sample -- it provides a far better description than I could capture in words on a blog. (There is a recipe for "No Dairy No Chocolate 'Chocolate' Pudding in this sample peek that those of you on a GFCF diet may find useful.)

For my homeschooling princess, the program is developmentally ahead of her. In order for me to use it with her as a program or curriculum, I have to modify the program a lot -- too much, in fact, for me to find it useful with her at this time. She's working at a preK/K level, academically, and if you peek inside at the sample, you'll see this program is for more advanced students.

As a reference for ME, right now, this program is *awesome*! I look forward to being able to use it more richly with my homeschooler when she is ready.

In the meantime, I am revisiting some information that I've learned because of autism and learning some new information, too, about how nutrition affects the body. Nine years ago, when my daughter regressed into autism, and I began to meet parents of children with autism who were familiar with biomedical treatment, I, quite frankly, thought a lot of those other parents were, well, a bit odd. I'd describe something my daughter was doing that was a problem, or complain about her eczema or some other physical problem, and these other parents would tell me, "such and such is a sign of yeast in the gut" or "that's a sign of a mineral deficiency". How does a layperson tell those things without a doctor and lab work?!?! I was skeptical. When some lab testing began to reveal the same issues that other parents saw in symptoms, I began to experience the fact that more often than not, they were correct. Over time, I morphed into one of those "odd" parents. In fact, I don't think they're "odd" any more!

The Nutrition 101: CHOOSE LIFE program includes a lot of the observations we can make about our bodies that give us clues to what might be going on, nutritionally. It certainly gives you clues to take to your doctor so that you can ask for specific lab work, if necessary.

Nutrition 101: CHOOSE LIFE is more than a text book. It's more like a user manual, providing both information and "how-to".

There are too many "favorites" of mine to list. There is an appendix about fingernail health that is filled with information. There's a section with recipes for safe household cleaners. 30 Ways To Poison Yourself Before Breakfast -- it caught my attention! A lot of the recipes are easily converted to GFCFSF (not all, though) and there are a few that are naturally GFCFSF. Here are a couple: Page 351 features a recipe for Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes; page 279 features a Tropical Vanilla Ice Cream Shake that is GFCFSF. The chart of RDA of vitamins and minerals is a super quick-reference.

There is an appendix on cadmium toxicity. One of the metals that is often high on hair tests of children with autism is cadmium. Another appendix focuses on cancer.

Nutrition 101: CHOOSE LIFE includes information about essential oils, something I've always wanted to learn.

A 15-page activity guide follows the program material in the book, beginning on page 285. The appendices are huge -- The first appendix of 31 begins on page 305 of the 448 page book.

If you are concerned about food families and allergies for meal planning and preparation, you'll need to gather that information elsewhere.

I attempted numerous times to send my file to an office supply store to have it printed. I was never successful. If I were to purchase the program, I would purchase the CD-ROM/book combo. I like being able to quick search a topic or term on the computer, but I would also like to have a paper copy.

The CD-ROM is priced at $79.99; the book is priced at $99.99; and the CD-ROM/book combo is priced at $129.99.

For reviews of this product by my Crewmates, go HERE.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Autism Mom Cooks Gluten-Free Casein-Free Classic American Cuisine

Introducing The Autism Mom Cooks Gluten-Free Casein Free Classic American Cuisine by Stephanie Hemenway ($27.75)

My child who happens to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder has been on a GFCF diet for almost 8.5 years. We spent a couple of years allowing her to "cheat" on the diet occasionally, using digestive enzymes, but mid-2008, lab work revealed some allergies to those foods, and we returned to a strict GFCF + SF (soy free) diet, and we removed a few other foods, too. My daughter's eczema improved dramatically. I blogged about returning to a strict diet here.

I am often frustrated with special diet cookbooks because they use ingredients that we can't use, and the cookbook authors don't provide information about acceptable substitutes.

I'm also frustrated because my kids are picky eaters. (They get that from ME, unfortunately.)

The Autism Mom Stephanie Hemenway understands. And she's written a cookbook to share with the world some kid-friendly, picky-eater friendly, family-friendly recipes for families like mine. Most of the recipes are naturally soy and nut free, too, and Hemenway offers substitutions for nuts, soy, and corn when applicable.

The cover photo makes me want to make the onion rings rightnow.

Inside the book, Hemenway offers an intro, a section on the GF/CF home that includes shopping and equipment lists ("kitchen items worth investing in") for every recipe in the book. (Note to self: Purchase a cast iron dutch oven.)

I counted 70 GFCF recipes, all family "regulars", kid friendly. Some of the recipes I would never in a million years tried to make (mac-n-cheez, for example). The cookbook gives readers recipes for snacks, breakfast, lunch, dinner, side dishes, breads, and desserts. I like a cookbook with color photos. I hesitate to try a recipe without a photo (it's a Pennyism). Hemenway provides a beautiful photo for almost every recipe.

Hemenway chose to publish the book in the United States, and in color, which influenced the price. I'm glad she chose color photos, and I like the fact that she chose a publisher from her home.

After being so dawggone tired of the same handful of meals with a desire to find more recipes that I can make for all of us, I have renewed hope. This cookbook has a lot for me to try. I'm excited! Honestly, I don't know where to begin. As I cook from the book, I will blog about the results.


October 5th: Made Mac-n-cheez -- Daughter did not like it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stephanie Hemenway's "The Autism Mom's Survival Guide"

I'm walking a few feet off the ground since the mail arrived Monday! I got a package from an Autism Mom, Stephanie Hemenway. Inside were two books to review. I was expecting the cookbook, but the survival guide was a surprise!


Being told that your child has an autism spectrum disorder is quite an experience, and more often than not, becoming an Autism Mom or Autism Dad is not a positive experience for parents.

A trip to the book store or to the University of Google for information about autism is overwhelming beyond description. Autism Moms and Autism Dads have to instantly wear a bunch of new hats, take on a bunch of new roles. Diet, education, remediation, biomedical, meds, sensory integration issues are just a few of the broad categories. The information is unending, and sorting through it all can be the catalyst to send some parents into shut-down mode and simply avoid all of it.

We parents rely on one another as mentors and coaches as we begin to sort through the mazes of options. I'm happy to mentor another parent. I am deeply indebted to my mentor, Missy. I want to pay that forward. I've been looking for a single resource that I can recommend to a "newbie" to say, "Here, read this FIRST, and then talk to me," a resource that would serve us as a common framework. Something that does not promote one "camp" over another. One that isn't "holier than thou" or "preachy". One that is practical. Oh, yeah, and I want something that fits in my purse.

Here is that resource:

Stephanie Hemenway's, The Autism Mom's Survival Guide ($14.99) is excellent. She's a wonderful mentor. Hemenway provides the right amount of information: "just enough" to be encouraging and hopeful while at the same time, not being overwhelming, while providing quality resources as Autism Moms take next steps in different areas of intervention. Her experience is so much like my own that I felt my head nodding in agreement all the way through the book.

Hemenway offers practical suggestions for all of the basics, and that includes some hints on organizing files, feeding sensory systems, saving money where possible, shopping with your asd child, cooking GFCF (which she does without being preachy, and yes, she includes some recipes!), taking care of yourself, keeping marriage a priority, and managing your time. (Note to self: Penny, you need to take her advice on internet time.)

When I was pregnant, one of my favorite pregnancy books was the one written for "girlfriends". Hemenway's "Survival Guide..." reminds me a little bit of that book. She writes in a non-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase, bottom-line style, in short sections that are packed with information and little steps to take "right now" that are easy to accomplish. I really appreciate the way Hemenway offers reference information, shortcuts, to take parents to next steps. (Stephanie, if you happen to read this, my daughter and I stopped for lunch at your top rated restaurant, yesterday, on the way to our appointment. Thumbs up! Thank you!)

My favorite, I-wish-I'd-had-this-book-when-my-daughter-was-little section is the one on shopping with the child. I like how it fits in my purse, too.

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide is not just for new Autism Moms. I've been a card carrying Autism Mom for almost nine years, an "old timer" at this point, and I appreciated the refresher on familiar topics and I got some new perspective and ideas, too. I enjoyed reading it and got some good tips for organizing paperwork and toys. It's a great book to give to dads who miss out on a lot of workshops and conferences because they're at home with the kids while Mom is learning. It's also a great book for grandparents and other extended family. Clinics who are in the business of diagnosing children with autism spectrum disorders should give every family a copy of this book with any new diagnosis. (Yes, I recommended it to my RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant yesterday at our appointment.)

Your purchase helps Autism Moms and their families. Check this out from Amazon dot com: "The National Autism Association’s FOUND Program provides county sheriff’s departments with Project Lifesaver equipment and tracking watches for children with ASD. A portion of the proceeds from each copy of this book sold on Amazon are being donated to NAA's FOUND Program."

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide is a fabulous new resource!

ps: stay tuned for information about the new cookbook

Friday, September 18, 2009

Winner of "The Autism Checklist"

I wrote entries on a piece of paper.
We cut them apart.
Folded them.
Mixed them up.
And the princess drew one for me.

And the winner is...
Regina, I don't have a contact e-mail address for you! I need your snail mail address so that I can ship the book to you! Congratulations!

Studypod: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

How many papers have I typed in my lifetime where I needed an extra pair of hands to hold open a ginormous textbook as I typed quotes from it? And how many times have I struggled to hold a book open to type a quote for my blog? If I had five pennies for every time...

...I could buy several STUDYPOD Book Holders!

In the "Where-was-this-contraption-when-I-needed-it-in-high-school-and-college?" category, meet the STUDYPOD book holder. Priced at $19.95, these little gems are sturdy, compact, transportable book h0lders that fold away when not in use and open quickly and easily when you need them. It securely holds books or papers upright so that the user can see them while typing.

Here's a short video that demonstrates the STUDYPOD.

I like having it by my computer for research, writing and blogging, and I like it in my kitchen to hold open a floppy cookbook while I'm cooking. (I need two just for ME, one for the kitchen and one for the computer!)

Oh, yeah, *grin* the kids can use it too, for holding quotes upright for copywork or for research at the computer. You can easily position a textbook upright in a way that two (maybe three) students at the dining room table can reference shared material at the same time.

No more weighting down books with staplers and three-hole-punches while hoping neither slips and causes you to lose your page while you are typing!

Check out the Studypod today. They are offering a SPECIAL DISCOUNT to our readers. You can get $5 off your order by using this coupon code: TOSBLOG5. So, go shop today! (fundraising opportunities are also available)

For reviews of this product by my Crewmates, go HERE.

"When A Zeeder Met A Xyder"

One of my children sometimes expresses some frustration at not having any close friends who have siblings on the autism spectrum. Said child feels misunderstood and alone, a feeling, I suspect, that a lot of same-age peers experience, too.

I struggle with how individuals perceive my child who is on the autism spectrum. She's more like them than they recognize, I think.

I learned about a new-to-me book this morning on a blog I frequent. When a Zeeder Met a Xyder by Malachy Doyle-- It's a picture book for children, one to which I can relate in more than one way. Check it out HERE. (

Do they make a tennis bag for squirrels?

This little guy needs a bag for his stuff! lol

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mom is a Doubting Thomas

I am ashamed to admit this. Today, I watched Coach begin to teach my skating princess a new fundamental, and I thought it might be too hard. I was SO wrong.
Wanna see how wrong I was?

The skating princess's mouth provides a clue to how hard she is working:

And she finds another try not so difficult:

I'm glad Coach has the bar raised high and has a firm grasp and high respect for foundations and fundamentals that play a role in skills that my skating princess will use several levels from now.

In the meantime, I'll blame my doubt on the temperature of the arena. My bottom and my nose were freezing the whole time. (Note to self: Dress for the weather in the arena.)

Fancy Toothpicks and Turkey Roll-ups

The fancy toothpicks are 'spensive, but they sure make plain ol' turkey roll-ups more attractive! My princess asked for seconds today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cavity filled

My younger princess had to have a cavity filled this morning. Our family dentist has no autism training, yet she is a natural with all of my children, including my younger princess w/ ASD.

She allows my daughter the response time she needs. Our dentist carefully and gently explains each step, previewing for my princess, and Dr. A. watches her to make sure she understands each step. Dr. A leads the procedure with a trained assistant, and there are no unnecessary helpers in the treatment room.

Slow down, shut up and wait, eliminate unnecessary distractions and chaos (including people) in the treatment room, allow time for understanding, focus on the task at hand. What a novel idea!

Expectations -- oops

I clicked the "publish post" button instead of "save now" by mistake on a rough draft that was not ready for publication. If you are on my subscriber list, please disregard that post.
I apologize.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sue Gregg's Blender Batter Waffles (GFCFSF version)

We tried Sue Gregg's blender batter waffles a couple of nights ago. I made the batter with whole grains in the blender in the morning and let it set on the counter all day so we could have waffles at suppertime.

I used rice milk soured w/ apple cider vinegar, gluten free oats, and brown rice with olive oil, vanilla flavoring and ground flax seed. (See link, above, for the complete recipe.) They were light and tasty, quite a bit darker than "regular" waffles, and we use warm pure maple syrup on them. They stuck to my new waffle iron, oddly, and I managed to salvage part of one for a photograph. (Maybe they needed more oil?)

I'm waiting for Sue Gregg's Whole Foods Cookbook to arrive as part of TOS Homeschool Crew Review.

Review and Giveaway: The Autism Checklist by Paula Kluth, Ph.D. with John Shouse

I have spent a great deal of my time and energy the past 8.5 years learning about autism. I know so much about it that I have trouble condensing information for people who don't eat, breathe and sleep with autism the way I do. We constantly interact with people who interact with my daughter but know little to nothing about autism, from the figure skating coach to babysitters to Sunday School Teachers. I, like most parents in my situation, need a resource, something we can give to or recommend to teachers, coaches, church volunteers, even friends, family and neighbors.

One book that many of us buy in bulk to give away is, "You're Going to Love This Kid," by Paula Kluth PhD. It's about inclusion in a school setting.

I've seen Dr. Kluth present three times, and she always amazes me! Kluth is one of the most understanding professionals in terms of understanding the blessings and the challenges that come with autism and describing those characteristics to people who teach or live with an individual on the autism spectrum. She can step into the shoes of a student on the autism spectrum and understand behaviors that other professionals label as "non-compliant" or "maladaptive" or "manipulative", interpret the behaviors for the rest of us. She is able to teach us about what she sees through their eyes so that we can be better parents and teachers to our kids.

She creatively addresses challenges and supports students on the autism spectrum and shares her successes with the world.

I've known of John Shouse for several years, having "met" him (online) when I was a chapter leader for my local ASA chapter. He has a child on the autism spectrum and is an incredible resource and advocate for families like mine in Tennessee.

Kluth and Shouse have teamed up to write, "The Autism Checklist: Practical References for Parents and Teachers" and when I read about the book before it was released, my expectations were high.

I was not disappointed. (Two thumbs up!) You'll need a highlighter and your sticky notes to mark pages, if you're like me. This is one you're going to want to order in bulk, so you have one to keep and some to loan or give to teachers, church staff, coaches, and others who interact with your family member who is on the autism spectrum. You might even make it required reading for anyone who interacts with your child!

What's inside? The book is filled with practical tips and strategies that can be implemented immediately. Do's, don't's, some answers to "why does he do that?", with idea after idea for setting an individual up for success.

The book is organized for easy access to specific information, offering five broad categories (Basic Info, Parents, Teachers, Helpful Strategies for Home and School, Resources) and within each category are short sections that are simple to search in terms of finding specific information and that are easily read in a few minutes. The table of contents is here if you'd like to take a peek; some chapter excerpts are available here. Most of the classroom tips and strategies are applicable to homeschoolers. I like the fact that Kluth and Shouse include a lot of information on sensory challenges and movement differences in autism, two topics that are sometimes shortchanged in books about autism.

The resource section is impressive. There are products, organizations and web sites that are new to me (and I thought I knew them all!).

The book is definitely one to recommend or to own to loan to individuals who work with your child, especially those who are brand new to autism.

Here's ordering info:

The Autism Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers ($15.95)
Paula Kluth
ISBN: 978-0-470-43408-6
256 pages
September 2009, Jossey-Bass

GIVEAWAY for US Readers: I have one copy of The Autism Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers to give away to a reader. Leave a comment on this post indicating you'd like to enter. I'll do the drawing Friday, 18 Sep 09. Be sure to leave me a way to contact you. ;)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


She and Coach were back in the blue rink today on brand new not-frozen-enough ice, so new that no magic markers were allowed on the ice. (The blue rink has been a bicycle store and hockey store in recent weeks.) The rink was loud with music and someone sawing in the corner, and there were four adults on the ice with them today.

Check out the pumping and the one and two foot glides!

I apologize for the blurry video clip.

My favorite part is her excitement.
Listen for,


This clip shows something significant. She can't hear the instructions (the music is too loud) and she tells Coach, "I can't hear you!" Meaning broke down and she was able to recognize it and work for a repair.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New products to review!

I thought I'd take a minute to let you know what new products have landed on my front porch or inbox in case you hadn't noticed my "Penny's '09/'10 TOS Crew Participants & Reviews" sidebar.
Guardian Angel Publishing sent us several e-books, and I have to tell you, I really do like the story that spotlights parts of speech in different colors. Stay tuned -- we have five e-books to tell you about.
Studypod sent us a book holder, something I wish I'd had many years ago in high school and college.
Sue Patrick's Workbox System e-book arrived in the inbox today, and I am challenged to implement a system aimed at more student independence during a time when our priority is interdependence.
Nature Friend Magazine and Nutrition 101 Choose Life have been here a little while. Expect reviews soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

ALEKS: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Last fall, I had an opportunity to try ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) as part of TOS Homeschool Crew, and was pleased to see ALEKS on the review list again this year. The company has been making changes for parents and teachers since we used the program. (Last year's review is here.)

Returning First Mates were given a short trial period to review the new features for parents and teachers:

New Master Account features:
Create a custom Quiz for your students
Review your student's Attendance Report
Receive our new Progress Report via e-mail

The web site explains that ALEKS is a research based on-line math program where on-line access is unlimited and no textbook is required. The User's Guide for Parents explains that "ALEKS provides individualized, one-on-one instruction that fits your child’s schedule. It is available wherever you access the Web. ALEKS was developed with support from the National Science Foundation. It is based on a field of Mathematical Cognitive Science called “Knowledge Spaces.” The purpose of research in Knowledge Spaces is to model human knowledge of any subject for quick, precise assessment and efficient guided learning in interactive computer programs."

While I didn't think the web site was difficult to navigate last year, the site is more user friendly to me this time around. The slight facelift and additions to the Master Account make my job easier and provide me more information about my students.

My favorite new feature is the ability to create a custom quiz for my children. I can go directly to an area of study within their ability and and experience and assign quiz problems to them in different categories, as many or as few as I choose. You may choose to have a student retake a recent quiz, (duplicating content but not the questions) and ALEKS gives you the option to allow ALEKS to create a recent knowledge quiz based upon recent course material.

ALEKS gives parents and teachers the ability to see an attendance report, which allows us to verify and track time spent.

I have an inbox with my master account, and assessment and quiz results are sent to that inbox so that I can look over them and print them if I choose.

I like ALEKS. The customer service is awesome. I don't have to drive a child to a tutor or pay hourly rates for that tutor. My only problem with ALEKS is that it begins at 3rd grade, and I have one child not quite ready for 3rd grade math. I will subscribe when my children need extra help in math. (Regular use is necessary and ALEKS recommends three hours a week, minimum.) ALEKS assesses each student and customizes work based upon where each one is working, giving them practice and experience exactly where it is needed. ALEXS is priced at $19.99 per month per student, with family plans and six month and one year packages available.

ALEKS offers a 48 hour free trial on the web site home page. Take the time to take the tour and a free trial. A free trial month is available to those new to ALEKS via the TOS freebie page.

For my Crewmates reviews of this product, go HERE.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Supporting students who resist or refuse to do work"

Today, I received a review copy of "The Autism Checklist, A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers", by Paula Kluth, Ph.D. with John Shouse.

I just flipped through the book, and a phrase at the top of one page about halfway into the book jumped out at me:

"3.8. Supporting Students Who Resist or Refuse to do Work"

You mean mine isn't the only one? Who knew?

I am looking forward to reading (and reviewing) this book!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can we get a BARE NAKED PATTIE please? McDonald's NON-Response

Hello Penny:

Thank you for contacting McDonald's recently with your idea for a product or service that you believe would be of interest to us. We appreciate your interest in McDonald's, but it is our company's policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from outside the McDonald's system. We have retained an electronic copy of your submission solely for our records.

It's not that great ideas cannot come from people outside of McDonald's. Each year, however, McDonald's receives thousands of unsolicited ideas and proposals for products and services from individuals as well as companies. Because of the volume of unsolicited ideas and the difficulty of sorting out what is truly a "new" idea as opposed to a concept that has already been considered or developed by McDonald's, we must adhere to a strict policy of not reviewing any unsolicited ideas that come from outside the McDonald's family of employees, franchisees and approved suppliers. We realize that we may be missing out on a few good ideas, but we have had to adopt this policy for legal and business reasons.

As a result, we must decline your invitation to review your submission and hope you understand the reasons for this decision.

Again, thank you for thinking of McDonald's.

McDonald's Customer Response Center


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Can we get a BARE NAKED PATTIE please?

May I take your order please?
I'd like a "double stack",
plain, no cheese, no bun, no toppings,

What would you like to order?
One Mighty Kids Meal
w/ the double cheeseburger,
plain, no cheese, no bun, no toppings,

We spent quite a few days on the road over the summer, where we had to eat in restaurants with a child on a GFCFSF+++ diet. If I had a dollar for every time we got MORE than two hamburger patties in a box, I could pay for some therapy. When I say "NO CHEESE, NO TOPPINGS," that is exactly what I MEAN!!! At one fast food place of the Golden Arches variety, the employee took the patties to the back and scraped the cheese off and gave them back to me. DUH. I could have done that -- I brought them back to you to get CLEAN ones that had not been touched by cheese.

The problem exists at restaurants where you sit and give your order to a waiter or waitress, too.

I am frustrated when I explain the allergy situation to wait staff, stress the importance of a PLAIN pattie, and have the meat come to the table with seasonings and/or cheese. Arg.

At Steak & Shake, the sliders are seasoned with some sort of seasoning salt, which the wait staff failed to explain to me. Double arg.

What restaurants need is a NAME for a PLAIN, BUNLESS HAMBURGER PATTIE for those of us who don't want the bun or cheese or toppings.

Hamburger steak?

Bare naked pattie?

I don't care WHAT you call it, but PLEASE, restaurants, put SOMETHING on the menu that is CODE to the chefs in the kitchen that means NO BUN, NO CHEESE, JUST THE PATTIE.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I love to watch my children doing what they love to do!

She hates to practice penmanship and copywork,

but enjoys making shapes with her feet.

Who knew?

Improvement noted while skating when others are on the ice:

She and coach had been from one end of the rink and back as I caught this video clip:

A "twist", yesterday and today

Monday's lesson included this little move, which requires a whooooooole bunch of sensory integration, motor planning and knowing where you (and your arms and legs and tushie) are in space:

Tuesday's lesson had her working on that little move again, a little differently this time:

This child has been described by more than one professional as a child who could use more intent and deliberation in her movements. She compensates by (I'm told) flinging herself forward, moving quickly wherever she goes. (Looks like she's walking to me, but the "flinging herself forward" makes sense to me.) I like how figure skating lessons incorporates deliberation and motor planning, including proprioception and vestibular work. What a wonderful side-effect of learning a beautiful sport! :)

Stay tuned, more videos to come in a later post.

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