Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like CHRISTmas

I buy CHRISTmas ornaments *after* CHRISTmas when they're marked way down. Sometimes, there's not much left to buy. And sometimes, I find a real cutie. I pack them away and forget about them until we decorate the next year, which means we always have a surprise or two waiting for us as we unpack the decorations.

Here's one of the surprises I opened tonight as we decorated our CHRISTmas tree.
(please press the play button)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Imitation Is Not A Primary Foundation Of Communication

I am thankful for professionals who understand the course of development and the foundations of communication so that they can help me help my child.

I'm frustrated that some professionals, usually from a behavioral "camp", still think that imitation is a primary foundation of communication.

Check out the quote in an opinion piece about insurance legislation mandate woes in Pennsylvania:

"Children with autism don't have one therapist, they have a team - beginning with applied behavioral analysts. They don't pattern behavior after adults. They need to be taught to imitate, then communicate. They require speech and occupational therapists."

Imitation alone is not a foundation of reciprocal communication. Imitation is a foundation for echolalia: "Look at me!" + "Do This!" = a prototype for echolalia.

We had the applied behavioral analysts who worked on imitation first. We didn't get reciprocal communication from that route, because we created a child who could copy, imitate, but not interact. Imitation is certainly handy when you have a child who is unable to interact. A parent can throw both arms in the air and say, "Do this!" before removing a toddler's shirt for a bath, for example. In development, imitation is preceded by non-verbal reciprocity, turn taking, meaning making, and imitation is not a developmental stage that is directly targeted by parents. Children learn imitation naturally out of reciprocity and joint attention.

Children with autism need professionals who understand development (first) and behavior.

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day

October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dr. Jim's Thanksgiving Letter

As the holidays arrive, here's Communicating Partners', Dr James D MacDonald's "Thanksgiving Letter" to extended family, written from the perspective of the parent of a child who is delayed in communication, speech, and language. It's good enough to share.

Dr. Jim wrote:

Dear Family Members:

My child can do more than you think!

Interact WITH not AT my child.

Enter physically in his world and observe him silently for a short while.

Become aware of his interests and ability level.

Then, gently join into his activity without disrupting it.

Do what the child is doing.

Do not do a lot more than he is doing- but be active.

Match his movements; act in ways he can try to do.

Respond to his movements with similar, related movements.

Talk about the here and now, about the child's experiences.

Be animated: be more interesting than what is distracting him.

Do more of what you do when he stays with you.

Do less of what you do when he leaves you.

Match his speech: talk in ways he can now talk (this will help him talk more.)

Respond to his speech: show him you are interested.

Wait silently for him to take his turn.

Don't praise him: enjoy him instead; your response is the best reward.

Take turns with action and talk: be sure to give and take.

If you don't understand him, treat it as a foreign language and simply give him an English word that fits the situation.

Limit your questions and demands: comment instead.

Bottom line: the more you enjoy each other, the more my child will learn with you.

More fingernails on a chalkboard

From the principal at the nearby school (and I want to know, at Kroger's WHAT?):

Dear Parents,

As you may be aware, the Michigan PTSA is promoting a state-wide bake sale for public education. Our PTSA is supporting this endeavor. We have three files explaining the bake sale on our website. If you are interested in bringing a dessert for the bake sale, please deliver it to CHS on December 2nd between 7:45 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. If you are interested in purchasing items, they will be for sale at Kroger’s between 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Please see the attachments or click on the following link to view the Bake Sale files:

Thank you. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Fingernails across a chalkboard

Just in time for the holiday's WHAT?

Three New Titles from Jossey-Bass Teacher

I am an "accidental homeschooler". I didn't start out to homeschool my child. And when I finally made the move to bring a child home from public school, I was absolutely and completely wowed by the resources available to homeschoolers, resources I'd never sought prior to withdrawing a child from school.

As a homeschooler, I am finding the opposite is true, too. Families who have been homeschooling forever don't know about a lot of the resources marketed to school-building teachers, especially the resources written for and by the special people who teach children with unique learning styles and needs.

Jossey-Bass Teacher, an Imprint of Wiley, sent me three brand new books at no charge so that I may tell you about them her on my blog. All three new books are aimed at school-building school staff, and yet, the titles are deceiving, because there is an incredible amount of information for homeschooling parents *and* for parents of those children in school buildings who have the unique learning styles and needs.

When my child was in public school, I liked to know what the staff members were learning. As a parent, I often went to workshops for teachers. The workshops usually set me up to be angry and upset, because I rarely saw the school staff pushing to accomplish the wonderful strategies I learned about in the workshops. Change was too slow to happen, and ultimately, became one of the reasons I withdrew my child from school. But if parents are going to hold school staff accountable, parents need to know what options are out there, what successes other schools are having and why. And those who choose to homeschool need proven strategies and techniques, to, to use at home. Jossey-Bass gives administrators, teachers, and parents three new books covering different topics that do just that.

# # #

Available this month, Sylvia L. DeRuvo brings us "Strategies for Teaching Adolescents with ADHD, Effective Classroom Techniques Across the Content Areas" ($29.95, paperback). Written for professional who works with students in the 6th-12th grades, this one is packed with information. DeRuvo gives the reader insight into the perspective of the student w/ADHD.

As a parent, I want professionals who work with my child to understand her, to be able to see through her eyes. Autism, ADD and ADHD share many "symptoms" and characteristics. What is ADHD? And what is it not? "Behaviors" are often neurodevelopmental. What does that mean? I know that, but a lot of gen ed teachers do not (even some speech therapists, OT's, Sunday School teachers do not). And what does a parent and/or teacher do about it? DeRuvo provides chapter after chapter of understanding and practical ideas and how-to strategies regarding not only behavior, but academics, specifically ELA, math, science, and social studies.

The pull quotes are fabulous. Here's one from page 40 in a chapter about using research based teaching strategies: "The classroom teacher moves from being a teacher of content to being a teacher of students." (YES!!!)

DeRuvo guides teachers (and parents) in scaffolding within the student's "zone of proximal development" (a Vygotsky term -- where have I heard that before?!) of new information for the student, using what she describes as "we do" (p. 96), where students work with the teacher and the teacher gently hands more and more responsibility to the student in notetaking. In other words, she takes a relationship approach, and not just teacher-student relationship, but student-student.

I am not a school-building-teacher. And my child is not an adolescent. I am a homeschool teacher of an elementary school aged child, and I find the book useful. The strategies are helpful whether you're the parent of a school-building student, a homeschooling parent, or staff at a school. If you are a pro-active parent who looks for helpful books to give to the teachers of your children, put this one on your shopping list and prepare to buy it in bulk.

# # #

The next two books light a fire inside me, make me want to return to college to get another degree, this time in education, so that I can be part of the change our kids need. They are inspiring and I was nodding along in agreement as I read.

# # #

Also available this month, "SMALL SCHOOLS BIG IDEAS, The Essential Guide to Successful School Transformation" by Mara Benietz, Jill Davidson and Laura Flaxman ($30.00, paperback)

I. love. the. ideas. in. this. book!

Who (in my opinion) is this book for? It's for any parent who is questioning the education their child is getting at a school-building school. It is for a homeschool co-ops. It's for any teacher or school administrator, school board or board of education member.

The authors take the time to explain the "why bother" of transforming a school. One question the authors examine is what are the "twenty-first-century skills" that are considered necessary for today's workplace? (An aside: Our autism intervention of choice, RDI®, considers these lists of characteristics important to employers, too, as part of a remediation approach.)

Once you know what "survival skills" are considered valuable, you have to ask the question, how do we grow those characteristics in young people?

The answer is not in teaching to tests or in rote memorization and regurgitation of material.

The answer is in teaching students how to THINK instead of teaching for memorization to standardized tests. Small Schools Big Ideas explains why and how to accomplish teaching children, teens and young adults how to think, collaborate, and, as John Dewey describes, to "use their minds well". (p. 6)

We haven't been involved in a homeschool co-op, with the exception of a couple of art classes, but from listening to parents and reading their posts on internet groups for homeschoolers involved in co-ops, I suspect that homeschool co-ops are super examples of the kind of teaching and learning that is going on in co-ops for homeschoolers. In fact, I think homeschool co-op organizers and participants might find the information in this book quite useful.

Divided into four sections, Small Schools Big Ideas is thorough for the reader who is serious about how to make transformation work. Part One describes the change that needs to happen, including obstacles and options. Part Two focuses on active participation of both staff and students. Part Three "delves into the inner workings of Essential schools.". (p xxix). Part Four is called "Embedding Successful Change".

This book excites me and depresses me all at the same time. I used to dream of schools like the proactive schools in this book. If we'd had this kind of school, I'd have never begun to homeschool. If we had the option to move my public-schooled children to a transformed school, I'd do it without hesitation. Problem is, (here's the part that depresses me) I don't see the hearts and attitudes in statewide training program administrators, district administrators, special ed administrators, building administrators and teaching staff that we need in order for this kind of transformation to happen.

This is a book that every parent, educator and school administrator should consider reading as we decide what is best for our students and take steps to make that happen.

# # #

Wayne Sailor brings us an October, 2009, release "Making RTI Work, How Smart Schools are Reforming Education through Schoolwide Response-to-Intervention" ($29.95, paperback, 336 pages).
Response to Intervention is more than a buzz word today. RTI is a federal mandate in our government schools. I have learned more about Response to Intervention than I ever thought possible from this book. Sailor is inspirational and I must have a pen or pencil in my hand as I read this book so that I can underline concepts that stand out to me and write notes in the margins. (I think this book has more acronyms than any other book that I have ever read.)

Parents who hang out on internet chat groups for parent of children w/ special learning needs will tell you that the issue of PBS (positive behavior supports) is HUGE. It's an often neglected and ignored concept, sometimes poorly attempted for the very students who need it the most.

I tend to think about RTI in terms of special education, but RTI is mandated for all students. I associate it with special ed because it's a term tossed around at IEP's and on internet lists for parents of children in special ed. In fact, "Making RTI Work" gives credit to special ed for introducing RTI to schools (page 5). Schools, it seems as I interact with other parents (and sometimes some professionals), don't understand RTI or even evidence based practices in a way that translates into meaningful programming and progress for students in special education settings.

If you've ever had a question (as a parent or a teacher) about your school's understanding of all things RTI, from FBA's to PBS's to evidence based practices, here's the book to explain it all. Check out the table of contents, here.

Sailor acknowledges the problems that schools face and offers solutions. He shows readers what RTI looks like close up in the classroom level, and he zooms out and shows readers what it looks like at a district level. Sailor admits "RTI is not a magic bullet that will fix broken schools," but "it does," he tells us, "create a framework for introducing scientific educational practices into the school." (p 265). That's what this book does -- introduces the reader to the framework, the implementation, the troubleshooting, the long-term plan of RTI.

Who is this book for? Anyone, teacher, administrator, therapist, parent -- with an investment in students who would like to know more about RTI. It opened my eyes, lifted my hopes for those still in school-building settings, broadened my understanding of Response to Intervention. I suspect it will do the same for you.

# # #

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life on the Farm® Board Game from WeRFun, a TOS Crew Review

Pssst! I have a secret.

When I am looking to purchase games for the family, my top priority isn't an educational focus. It's not even a "joining" or "relationship" focus.


What I look for FIRST is the number of people who can play the game.

A lot of games are for foursomes. Or 2-4 players. Like toothbrush holders. Or family four-packs to sporting events. :(

We're a family of FIVE. My highest priority is a game that all five of us can play together.

I had to wait for Life on the Farm® ($25) to arrive to learn how many people can play this game, because I could not find the information on the company web site.

2-6 PLAYERS!!!!!!!

Rather than recreate information that is available on the We R Fun web site, I'll direct you here to read about how to play the game.

My second criteria is sturdiness. I have a child, who before she was two, could rip a board book in two. We are rough on games. This one is sturdy.

Third, fourth, fifth etc etc etc is a game that is simple enough for a child with developmental delays that is not too babyish for the sibs, a game that is fun and assists in our relationship building goals and objectives, a game that offers some educational value, a game that provides opportunites for making some discoveries, a game that provides opportunities for thinking. This game meets all the criteria.

We like this game !! -- it's not as complicated as the games you see in department stores that include play money. Because the rules are clear, we had no disagreement over interpretation of rules. We are learning new vocabulary words (slaughter, income, expense, for example). My homeschooler is getting experience counting dots on the dice and counting money. There's an element of uncertainty that adds to the fun: the expense and income cards add a wild card to the game, and a player who is running out of money can suddenly find himself a couple of thousand dollars richer by landing on the right square and drawing the right card. Or a player who is ahead in the game can lose a lot of it rather quickly, based on the circumstances of the game.

There are two versions listed in the rules, a regular version and a short version. The one downside for playing with a child who has attention challenges that come with autism is that even the short version is too long. My homeschooled princess joins us at this particular game for exactly a half-hour, which is INCREDIBLE. She's engaged the entire time, doing some math in her head and some not in her head, counting her money, counting the dots on the dice, learning about income and expense. But at the 30-minute mark, she is done. That will improve with time and practice. We may consider creating an even shorter version at our house.

I have a difficult-to-suppress urge to say "E-I-E-I-O" a lot when I see the game board or box. *wink*

It's fun, engaging and entertaining, and with rules that are "just right" (not too complicated yet not too simple). We don't have to leave out a family member because it accommodates up to six players. MULTIPLE THUMBS UP!

The game can be purchased directly from the company, at specialty retailers, and at ($19.99 at KMart dot com).

We R Run sent me the Life on the Farm® board game, free, as part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew's review program. I received no monetary compensation for the review.

To read the reviews of my fellow First Mates about this product, go here.

??? Hockey ???

My homeschooled, skating princess's skating coach says we need to find time for the princess to practice on her own. Fortunately, there is a small, private college just down the road that offers open skate every weekday. The price is right: $3 for the hour. We headed over there last week and arrived in time for 40 minutes of open skate. A dad and his adorable, heavily padded four year old son were the only other folks on the ice. They were "playing" hockey. I watched it all from the sidelines -- I don't know how to skate. With 10 minutes to go in the hour-long open skate session, my girl showed interest in what they were doing and the dad generously offered my girl an extra puck and one of the arena employees loaned her a hockey stick. And she "went to town".

There's even more hand-eye and foot-eye coordination work in hockey, more motor planning. She was exhausted after 40 minutes on the ice and was famished, even though she'd eaten just before going onto the ice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Control and Surrender

Having a child on the autism spectrum has set me on an interesting journey. Our first big intervention was behavioral, where our goal was to make the child appear to be indistinguishable from her peer from the outside. The intervention of choice was based upon the principles of classical and operant conditioning and looked a lot like animal training. Our child learned to perform on command so long as we used the right words and had taught her the expected response.

The changes I'd hoped for didn't happen with the behavioral approach. Don't get me wrong -- she learned what we taught her. We taught her to rely on us for direction when we deemed it necessary (which was pretty much all the time) and overall, she was very passive in navigating the ups and downs and twists and turns that occur moment-to-moment.

She was rigid. Inflexible. The four of us danced and tiptoed around her a lot, trying to avoid a meltdown. Her need for control was palpable. And, to keep peace, we obliged her.

She was INdependent. She had no concept, no experience with INTERdependence. Joining another was outside her realm. She could perform when asked, but not join. There's a difference, a difference I did not understand until we made a change in our approach.

Leaving the purely behavioral approach behind and switching to a developmental model set me on a path of my own self discovery.

The developmental model we use is based upon the course of typical development, starting with birth, of the parent-child relationship. Go back in development, get infant foundations of reciprocity and interaction in place first, and move up a developmental ladder that has been heavily documented by psychologists.

Suddenly, the changes began to appear -- the changes I'd longed for but failed to see when we began the behavioral intervention. Joining and following are more important than following rules and prompts. That became clear (finally) to me. My role as a parent changed drastically as I began to hand to my child in little increments responsibility for herSELF. I began to realize that my exhaustion had come from having to manage her all the time with prompts and reminders, and dropping the behavioral training and picking up a developmental approach made my job a little easier.

And I began to realize that maybe I need some work on being an apprentice. I'm a Believer. A Christian. And I realized that I have a lot of apprenticeship still to practice and experience.

Think about it. If God created us in His image, would the earthly parent/child relationship parallel the spiritual Parent/child relationship? And now that I better understand infant development (emotion sharing, referencing, turn taking at non-verbal, pre-speech levels), just how practiced am *I* at looking to my Heavenly Father for information? Am I an experienced "joiner" with Him? Joining and interdependence implies giving up a lot of control.


When I think about the need for control that we see in autism, I realize it parallels my own. As we use a developmental approach to remediate the core deficits of autism, I realize I need the same remediation to work on my core deficits of spiritual autism.

Ouch ouch ouch. Truth hurts.

I've been pondering (for a long time) the idea of how the Bible illuminates our spiritual relationship development intervention.

One local youth pastor said in a spring '09 sermon that our job as parents is to "TRANSFER THE CHILD'S INTERDEPENDENCE ON *US* (parents) TO AN INTERDEPENDENCE ON *GOD*". That means I must have that interdependent relationship with God, first.

Friday, I was in the car, listening to the very end of this radio program (6:46 minutes left in the program) when the hosts began to talk about "surrender". The hosts had a conversation with a caller, and the hosts words hit me hard enough to want to share them: "I'm gonna choose to believe that what He says is true until He proves it wrong, rather than I'm going to question it until He proves it's right. That's surrendering." (Is the opposite a form of spiritual autism?)

And that comment is followed by another profound statement by one of the radio hosts, "The Gospel is full of damaged goods that the purpose of Jesus to come down here is to transform damaged goods in redemptive people that are working whole." Could that last statement a definition of a spiritual relationship development intervention?

This time of year is a time for reflection. What changes do I need to make in mySELF? Too many to list here, and probably too personal to list here.

I'm thankful for the growth in me because my child regressed into autism.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Exploramania's Exploracise® GyMathtics®, a TOS Crew Review

Math. Healthy Lifestyle Choices. Low impact aerobic exercise.

We need all three of them. And Exploromania gives us all three in a 25 minute DVD for elementary school-aged children called Exploracise® GyMathtics®. Exploromania sent me, at no charge, this DVD so that I can review the product for you here on my blog.

I'm a huge fan of movement and learning. I was privileged to attend a workshop with Smart Moves author and brain physiology expert Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. not too long after the realization that one of my children was developmentally delayed related to a regression into an autism diagnosis.

Movement and learning are intimately connected -- we all need them both, and we learn better when there's a component of movement involved.

Exploracise® GyMathtics® gives you both in an exercise DVD priced at $24.99. According to the clock/counter on my DVD player, the routine is 25 minutes long. The routine is divided into four parts, "Shape StretchesTM Warm Up", "Counting CalistehenicsTM", Pattern PowerTM" and "Well-Being Wind DownTM" Exploramania provides a three-minute sample of the video on their home page.

The actors on the tape range in age from a first grader to a college student, but the tape is a bit to "little-kid-ish" for my "big kids". For a child with autism, where processing multiple "channels" of information simultaneously can be quite challenging, this DVD can be overwhelming. Following the movements (using a non-verbal "channel"), skip counting (a verbal "channel") and listening to the math facts or health tips all at the same time is a lot -- sometimes too much, too overwhelming, for a child who is learning to navigate several "channels" simultaneously. Playing the video with the sound low may be an option for children who are overwhelmed with too much at once. For my homeschooler, some of the facts are a bit too much at this time (developmentally inappropriate, but we're getting there!) and the healthy lifestyle choices and facts in the voice over during the "wind down" are annoying to this mom.

GyMathtics is cute, it's low impact, and the workout is do-able for young children or children with motor planning challenges. There are no moves that I'd consider tricky or difficult. You get to sneak in some math through a "back door" -- you're not sitting at a table and it does not look like "school", which is a huge bonus for a lot of families. If you're looking for a low-impact exercise routine that you and your child can do together, check out the samples on the web site and consider this DVD.

To read what my Crewmates have to say about this product, please click HERE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Skating Update

I have been lazy about getting skating video up on the blog. We missed three sessions due to illness, and still I have still photos and video from several sessions that are in the camera but not up on the blog.

I continue to be amazed at the hard work that goes into learning to skate.

My skating princess has been working on CROSSOVERS lately -- involving a whole lotta motor planning and crossing the midline with her feet while maintaining her balance on blades that lift her off the ice.

Her face, her affect is so full of glowing smiles when she is on the ice! Yesterday's lesson had her coming to me with a few "TA-DA!" moments. Here's one:


Saturday, November 14, 2009

25 DAYS, 26 WAYS by Ace Collins, a Zondervan Review

One look at the title of this book had me convinced this is another book about how to "do" Christmas bigger and better, leaving me feeling more overwhelmed and guilty that I am not doing enough to create warm memories of beloved traditions. I figured it is filled with impractical crafts that require professional talent and tools and recipes that I can't make or convert because they're all wheat or milk based.

I was wrong.

Ace Collins has written 25 Days, 26 Ways To Make This Your Best Christmas Ever ($15.99, hardcover) as lessons on how to focus on the things that matter with an emphasis on simplification. Day 1 is available HERE -- check out the history and reasons of Advent and look at the simple but powerful idea that Collins suggests at the end of the chapter.

Collins intends for readers to read one chapter a day, starting December 1st. The book is filled with interesting history about all things Christmas, from Advent to the meaning behind the symbols in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," to mistletoe and everything in between.

Yes, there's at least one gluten filled suggestion (it has to do w/ animal crackers). I'm torn between finishing the book for this review and saving it for the month of December the way the author intended. I've read quite a bit of it, and am relieved that it doesn't require me to be a professional "Suzy Homemaker" or push me to be bigger, brighter, better in terms of crafts, food, gifts, and decorating.

It would be a great nightly read-aloud with the family, one chapter a night.

Simplify. I like practical, meaningful suggestions that point us to the meaning of Christmas. That's what "25 Days, 26 Ways" does.

ISBN: 0310293146, ISBN-13: 9780310293149, UPC: 025986293147

Zondervan sent me an advanced reader copy of this book at no charge in order that I may review it on this blog.

Maple-Plum Glazed Turkey Breast (it's GFCF)

I've been going through cookbooks looking for something new to try. Can you tell? *grin*

This one is from page 285 of the 2000 edition of Southern Living Annual Recipes from Oxmoor House. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
The Chilled Vegetable Salad is also GFCF, so I included it for readers looking for new recipes. I'm not likely to make the salad, but I am going to try the turkey recipe.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I met Santa

My washer and dryer died. Together. At the same time. I had to go pick out new ones tonight, and guess who was working the kitchen design center next to the appliance center of the do-it-yourself store?

Santa Claus, himself. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I felt like a little girl when I was talking to him tonight.

I asked the gentleman waiting on me how long Santa Claus had worked there, and he called Santa over to meet me. He doesn't get to work as much at the store in December, because he's busy meeting children and hearing what they want for Christmas. He gave me one of the cards that he gives the kids:

Edible Ornament Recipe that happens to be GFCF

I'm going to have to try this one. Click on the recipe to enlarge the photo.

From 1994 Southern Living Annual Recipes (from Oxmoor House), page 316.

Update: My homeschooled, skating princess and I made one recipe of the ornaments. We omitted food coloring and left the ornaments white. The dough is extremely thick and my hand mixer overheated. I'll use the stand mixer for the next round. The dough is thick and sticky, offering tactile and proprioceptive input as we rolled it out with a Tupperware glass for a rolling pin. The size of the cookie cutter matters and bigger is NOT better. I bought some Wilton brand holiday candy molds at a discount department store-- I want to see how this recipe works in the molds. I also want to try mint flavoring instead of vanilla or try a teaspoon or two of coconut flour in the dough. I wonder if we could paint the ornaments instead of coloring the dough?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

uʍop ǝpısdn ǝʇıɹʍ oʇ ʍoɥ

uʍop ǝpısdn ǝʇıɹʍ oʇ ʍoɥ

Learning (not memorizing) will make reading FUN

I have blogged about my daughter's trying-to-learn-to-read experience in public school, about how memorization of the words of a story is not the same as reading comprehension.

Thanks, Jeannine Herron, for the support and encouragement you give me here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

GFCF Pear Bread

The internet and other Momblogs are a great resource for recipes when you have a family member on a special diet. I bought pears yesterday just so I could try this recipe:

I made mine in a square cake pan and I used GF Trader Joe's pancake and waffle mix as the flour mix. It's super delish! Would be great warm with ice cream on the side.

I got my GFCF girl to eat a few bites of it this morning. That's a good start.

First Words -- thoughts from "Dr Jim"

I wish I'd heard of Dr Jim (Dr James MacDonald from Communicating Partners) before I heard of ABA. He posted on his yahoo group ("communicating") over the weekend, and he was writing about us, about what we did wrong. Please learn from our mistakes. I blogged about some of our experience here and about how finally finding RDI(r) got us back on the right track. RDI(r) and Communicating Partners are different developmental interventions that share some similarities.

Dr Jim's post is below.

I have known many children who have learned words for many school type learning- words for colors, shapes, numbers.

Why can that be a problem?

Those words are not very communicative; in daily interactions they are not the meanings we communicate about. So while the child may store them for being tested, they are not words that they will use and practice much.

Think of words coming from the child's experiences and reasons to communicate.

When you ask yourself: what should a child say now- ask: what does he know and what is he doing and what does he want to tell someone?

Those three questions will give you words that he is ready to speak and communicate.

What should his next words be? His next words should be combinations of words he knows singly. They should also be new words that describe what he is doing, experiencing and wanting to tell someone.

Help your child talk from his real self not just from list of words he learns in school or the things you think he needs to know. He will talk more when he is talking from his own experiences.

One thing you can do is translate he actions, sounds and experiences into one or a few words. Think of his actions and sound as 'pre-words" ideas that he is ready to learn in word form.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

American Heritage Educational Foundation, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Celebrate American Heritage Month in November!

“American Heritage Month gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our roots as Americans from a fresh perspective. It is a time to remember that we Americans have brought with us many different heritages, but we have joined together in this country as one people. The Declaration of Independence sets forth our fundamental values, and the Constitution serves to protect those values. Our schools, teachers, students, and other citizens help preserve and strengthen the miracle that is America. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.’”

The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc.

 Copyright American Heritage Education Foundation,

One eye-opening presentation at the homeschool convention in Cincinnati in the spring was that of college history professor Larry Schweikart. He reminded me how important teaching our children *real* history is, making sure they get good foundations that are accurate and true. I want my children to have a better understanding of American history than I did in school. And now I have one tool to help me do just that.

American Heritage Education Foundation shares this perspective, and the founders have developed a curriculum that is built around four themes: FREEDOM, UNITY, PROGRESS, and RESPONSIBILITY. I've known about the American Heritage Education Foundation web site for a while. I've looked at elementary level lesson plans with my homeschooler in mind. For this review, the entire crew received the "An Adventure in Liberty" CD, valued at $150. This product is FREE to you, too! The information is available via download at the American Heritage Education Web Site or you may order your own free CD here (or you may purchase a printed copy for just under twenty bucks).

I have reviewed many resources that offered my readers a free *sample* or a discount, but reviewing a product that is free to EVERYONE is a first.

The CD contains material geared for general-ed elementary through high school levels with a Spanish option for the elementary level. The elementary level is 184 pages long, contains games, puzzles, quotes, info, and what to do for each grade level. The middle school level is 182 pages long and the high school level is 187 pages long.

The web site explains that, "

Each resource book includes an introductory essay regarding the curriculum rationale, lesson plans to specifically consider the American heritage themes, and activities in which students assess and analyze their own identities as Americans. The elementary school lesson plans include lessons about the colonists' experience under monarchy; the context for the writing of the Declaration of Independence; the creation of important American symbols, songs, and holidays; and the character traits modeled by great national leaders and presidents. The middle school lesson plans include lessons focusing on concepts within the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and other important texts and American symbols as well as the ideals for which many fought and sacrificed their lives. The high school lesson plans include lessons for in-depth analysis and understanding of the ideas, intentions, arguments, rights, and meanings addressed in significant texts from the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence to Federalist 47, the First Amendment, and a government letter on religious expression in public schools. A brief summary of each lesson plan can be found at the appropriate grade-level links."

The CD provides a wealth of information and activities and covers an incredible amount of territory -- I searched through the elementary levels for something to do with my daughter. My homeschooler is not quite ready for the first grade level -- I would rather begin with her when she's more ready (and the material would require fewer modifications from mom). The nice thing about getting all three levels is that customizing lessons for a child with scattered skills is something doable.

(A side note: The section on the U.S. Flag is interesting as two of my children have been responsible at school for raising and lowering the flag each day.)

My Crewmates with older c hildren, on the other hand, were able to use more of the resource than I. Check it out!To find out what my Crewmates think about this free to everyone resource, go here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Shifting Attention

A parent on an RDI(r) and autism related internet group asked about how to work on attention shifting with a son.

Here's my question for that parent: Is his experience, "I don't have to shift my attention while sharing attention with people because someone will do that for me by telling me when to look or showing me with a point." ?

I'm a parent, too. So, this is unofficial, layman's viewpoint, parent-to-parent, unprofessional, I am not a professional nor do I play one on this blog kind of observation and advice from my experience as a parent. Thanks to Dr Gutstein for teaching me the concept that the child needs to feel himself or herself taking his or her own action.

Here's what I'm beginning to understand -- and it took a homeschooling-teacher-expert to explain it to me using the example of math. I blogged a little bit about it here. Functions like attention shifting always begin in the concrete. Abstract attention shifting is a later developmental step.

I'd suggest that the parent look for some ways to allow the child the opportunity to shift attention in really concrete (manipulative mode) ways, shifting his body, which is concrete and "manipulative mode" (not just his gaze, which is more abstract) to orient himself toward you. Give him the opportunity -- you have to think about it that way -- instead of trying to "get" him to do attention shift. It'll involve the parent slowing down and being quiet. (I blogged about the same expert and opportunities to learn here).

Most families can find something routine from their day like setting the table to offer some concrete (manipulative mode) attention shifting that involve some physical shifting as well.

You offer him each plate and wait silently for him to orient himself toward you, accept it from you by reaching for it (feeling himself taking his own action), and set it on the table. You hand him each utensil. Each napkin. Each condiment. By shifting your own position (slightly) with each item, he'll have to take a slightly new action each time, and over time, with lots of opportunities, he'll make the discovery that he's got to reference dynamically (with attention shifting/gaze shifting).

Once you get some practice with using yourself differently in a routine activity, you'll begin to see more opportunities to offer him throughout your day. And gently, in a developmentally appropriate way, you'll begin to hand him responsibility for his own attention shifting.

Things that make you go, "hmmmmm"

The kids and I have been sick with the crud all week -- Kid #3 has it now. The doctor says it's the flu, and going by what the CDC says, they're calling it all H1N1, without testing for any flu. (Strep tests were negative.)

I'm weary. Coughing. Want to rest. But I can't. We need groceries. And venturing out means going to several grocery stores because of the gluten free casein free diet. I routinely go to several stores to get everything I need because not one store has everything. Sometimes, I enjoy it. Not today when I need to be resting. I wore gloves so I wouldn't leave any germs. I have not run a fever.

On the way TO shopping, I get behind folks going five-to-ten miles BELOW the speed limit. It's a pet peeve of mine.

Later, I waited at the meat counter at the grocery store longer than usual this afternoon. Two employees were conferring over something I could not see toward the back. I was the only shopper pushing a cart the length of the meat case, looking at the sales, waiting for one of them to notice me. Finally, one of the employees waited on me, and as I pushed my cart away, I heard her wait on another customer, who informed the employee that SHE was there before *I* was and the employee had waited on me out of order. What?! The employee was stunned (as I was) and apologized for not even seeing her (I didn't either), and the woman went on to explain that she rolled her cart by and made eye contact, so the employee would know she's in line.

Since when does rolling your cart by and making eye contact and then rolling away constitute a place in line to order at the meat counter at the supermarket?!?!?!?!?

Hmmmmm. I've been studying non-verbal communication for several years now, and, I have to tell you, I've never read any definition of rolling by the meat counter and making eye contact equaling "next in line" if you don't stand there and WAIT to be WAITED ON.

I felt like I did something wrong -- or like she was accusing me of doing something wrong. If I'd have known she was waiting before me, I'd have said so to the employee. But seriously: I. Didn't. Know.

And on the way home from shopping, I got behind someone going 10 miles below the speed limit, doing 35 mph in a 45 mph zone, with an aggressive male driving an SUV behind me, riding my tail as if he could make me speed up by being aggressive and riding my bumper. Is he stupid or mean or both? He's taller than I am -- surely he can see there's a lady wearing a big bun on the top of her head driving ahead of me 10 miles below the speed limit.

Pet peeves. And things that make me go, "hmmmmmm."

And then, I realized that I forgot to get an important beverage condiment that we must never run out of: ketchup. I'll have to go back out, because we're on our last bottle.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gary Null Testifies in NY Regarding Vaccine Safety

Be sure to head over to YouTube for the other segments of the testimony.

Big Thoughts for little people; a MamaBuzz Review


Big Thoughts for Little People by Kenneth N. Taylor
Ages 3-7
Hardcover retails for $14.99

Best-selling children's book author Kenneth N Taylor and illustrator Andrea Petrlik Huseinovic have published a new book: Big Thoughts For little people, ABC's to help you grow. It is written for young children, and I requested it because I'm looking for developmentally appropriate books for my daughter who is playing catch-up, developmentally.

She and I have enjoyed this book!

I like the way Taylor set up the text and Huseinovic's illustrations are delightful. It's a winner from beginning to end.

Each letter of the alphabet has two pages. On the left side of the fold is a giant letter accompanied by four pieces of what I'll call "text". First is a short poem that uses the letter several times. Second is a short paragraph, each five or six sentences in length, that talk about something that is happening in the illustration on the right side of the fold. Third are three questions for the child and parent to ask and answer. And last, is a Bible verse (some from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament) that is related to the poem, paragraph, questions and illustration.

The illustrations are full of items and actions that begin with the corresponding letter.

It's adorable!

RDIers, the "same but different, different but same" "variations on a theme" possibilities are big in this little book. My daughter becomes quite anxious when she sees what she thinks is "too much" text on a page. When I opened the package and began to look at the book, she curled up next to me, and I waited for her reaction. Our first read-through, we read JUST the poems and looked at the pictures. We didn't try to read the paragraph or answer the questions until a later read-through. We've really enjoyed the book. I think it would be a wonderful addition to a church nursery or toddler room or a sweet gift for a baby or toddler.

* Mama Buzz, and reviewers, were provided with a complimentary copy of this book for blog tour purposes* "This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by Tyndale House for this review."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Passing along another resource: Lives in the Balance dot org

I opened an e-mail this morning from the author of "Lost at School" and "The Explosive Child". I blogged about "Lost at School" here. I was privileged to hear Dr Greene speak a year ago about CPS (Collaborative Problem Solving).

Dr Ross Greene has a new web site, called Lives in the Balance. Here's a portion of the e-mail I received:


First, I'm delighted to announce the creation of a new non-profit organization aimed expressly at disseminating the Collaborative Problem Solving approach. The organization, called Lives in the Balance, aims to make the CPS model as accessible as possible to parents, educators, staff, and mental health clinicians, primarily through no-cost web-based programming and support. So, when you visit the Lives in the Balance website -- -- you'll find lots of streaming video describing key facets of the CPS model and showing what Plan B looks like (and ways in which it can go awry). You'll also find streaming video of people describing their use of CPS (and the different hurdles they had to overcome to find success with the model), content related to model updates, and a bunch of additional resources. New content will be added to the site continuously. So check it out when you can... whether you're a veteran of the CPS approach or a newcomer, I'm hoping you'll find just what you need.

On the homepage of the website, you'll see that I'll be hosting a new web-based radio program for educators starting on Monday, November 9th, at 3:30 pm Eastern time. The program will air weekly during the school year (you can access it through an internet connection), and will provide lots of useful information on how to implement the CPS approach in education settings, including interviews with people who are already doing it in their classrooms or schools. There's a mechanism for calling into the program to comment or ask questions, so I hope you can join in live...if not, you can listen to a recording of the show at your leisure. By the way, I'll be hosting a similar web-based radio program for parents starting in January."

I hope this information is helpful.

AVKO Educational Research Foundation; a TOS Crew Review

How do I teach a child with a learning disability to read? I am not a teacher by training. I had no trouble learning to read. What do I do first?

I realized a couple of years ago that the public school system is not equipped to teach my child how to read. A reading problem was lumped under all-things-autism and not addressed in the same way it would have been had she not have had an autism label.

A trip to a workshop offered by our local ISD (intermediate school district) left me picking my figurative chin from the floor as I learned what services are offered to general ed students that are often not offered to students with a label.

So, I withdrew my girl from public school and set about the task of giving her experience in pre-reading, pre-literacy foundations. The public school system expected her to arrive at school with all of those in place, assumed that all of those were in place OR that they were impossible to attain. Either way, she was not going to get those pre-reading, pre-literacy foundations at school.

Fast forward a year and a half. My girl, who was always proficient at memorizing sight words, is still a sight-word-memorizer. She guesses a lot. We've been working on comprehension of NON-text (aka wordless books and stories), but what do I do as we move into text again? We've got to work on some phonics. But how? And how will I learn to teach her? I am confident that I am capable of teaching her. I need a teacher or a guide.
Enter AVKO Educational Research Foundation and a couple of AVKO's many e-books and MP3 recordings that individuals as members ($25/year) may access at no additional charge. "The Teaching of Reading & Spelling: A Continuum from Kindergarten through College" is a 364 page e-book that is available with an AVKO membership. "The Teaching of Reading and Spelling Starting from Square One," is a 316 page e-book that walks me through teaching reading and spelling. Individually, each is priced at $59.95 in book form. Members may also access the e-version of AVKO founder Don McCabe's story, "To Teach a Dyslexic" (free w/ membership or $14.95 in book form). The e-books are a few of the first things I found when I was given a membership in order to use and review it for TOS Homeschool Crew.

There's a quick-start page here and an articles and essays page here. The articles and essays page features McCabe and other authors.

For non-members, AVKO offers a list of freebies HERE. The freebies include a wealth of material to help parents and teachers better understand reading and spelling and how to teach it to all students, whether the students struggle in areas of reading and spelling or not.

A heads up: Please read materials before giving them to your children. Some of the puns and cute questions pages contain material that I'd put in a category of adult humor and not something I want to explain to my children.

Benefits of AVKO Individual Membership

I continue to enjoy the AVKO perspective. Don McCabe gives me new insight and inspiration as I chart a course for my child. He helps me look through the eyes of my child. I like that. AVKO has an incredible amount of information for me as I learn more about how to teach my daughter. I know some folks who rave about Sequential Spelling. I don't have enough information yet to know if I'll purchase Sequential Spelling or one of the other products, but having seen the member section, for me. there is a college course or two of information available to me in it. I wish I could read it more quickly -- seems I am always interrupted. If I can't get through it all during my complimentary period for this review, I"ll purchase a membership. I think the information is worth the price for our situation. Don McCabe and AVKO are a wealth of information and experience. AVKO's giving me a new perspective and lots of information to process.

Here's what I don't like: The large books that I'm studying are in .pdf format, which means that if I want to look at the full page on my screen, the font is too small to actually read, even with my reading glasses. And when I enlarge the view, I cut off part of the page and the scrolling feature leaves a lot to be desired. They're a little bit cumbersome. I wish the books were set up like the digital magazines I'm learning to like, where I can turn pages like I turn pages in a real book in my hands.

To read my Crewmates' reviews about this product, go HERE.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tallest of Smalls; a MamaBuzz Review

*This book was given as a complimentary copy to Mama Buzz and reviewers, for blog tour purposes.*


The Tallest of Smalls by Max Lucado
Ages 4-7
Retails for $16.99


Max Lucado with illustrator Maria Monescillo brings us "The Tallest of Smalls", a book written for young children about self worth, "a parable from Max Lucado's "Fearless" (according to the book jacket).

The story took me back in time to games in PE that had two team captains choosing, one at a time, team members from the students in the class. I was much older than the 4-7 year old crowd that this book is written for. "Pick me!" runs though the mind of every child in the class, who is hoping NOT to be the very last person chosen. Loyalties of friendships are often set aside during these team picks as the captains try to stack their team with the better athletes. It's a set up for a lot of hurt feelings.

"The Tallest of Smalls" is about a boy named Otis who is the smallest of Smalls, and he's waiting, begging, to be chosen to receive a pair of stilts so that he can parade around among the folks in town who were not chosen. When he gets his stilts, he is a mess. He stumbles and loses his stilts. He soon learns that doesn't matter, because with Jesus, we all already matter.

The story is written in rhyme, with short sections of a Du Seuss-like poem on each illustrated page. Some of the illustrations are what I'd call cute, and some are notsocute. (I think some the faces of the people in the story are a bit scary looking -- some of them have no noses and some have no mouths.)

For a child with language delays, I think this poems that make up this story may be a challenge to grasp, although the ending is clear as Jesus tells little Ollie, "You're precious, my Ollie, not too short of too small; I made you, remember, you're mine after all."
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