Friday, December 31, 2010

Communicating With Teenagers

Sometimes, I read a post on an internet chat group that is a must-share. Carolyn Glass wrote this a couple of years ago in a discussion on the yahoo group, "communicating", and as the discussion this week again turned to communicating with teenagers, I bumped up this old post so that we could revisit it. And this time, I asked Carolyn if I could share her brilliant thoughts on my blog with you. She graciously said yes.

Hey everyone,

I just had an "aha" CP moment about conversations. You've heard Dr. Jim and many others on this list talk about the merits of the CP method for all kinds of children and adults. Well, I discovered it also works like magic with having conversations with typically-developing

Last night, I received the highest form of praise I can imagine coming from my 16-yr-old niece: She called me "my aunt who totally rocks...." I'm adding it to my resume! :) I owe it all to Communicating Partners, because I realized that I have been using CP strategies to get to know her recently (as well as several other nieces and nephews I had previously not known well, since they all live far away).

Here are the CP strategies I have been utilizing. Give them a try...they work wonders!

Matching: I joined Facebook! This niece who now thinks I "rock" is someone I rarely see, who would not dream of writing a letter or even fuss with email, and who says a few polite words to me when we see each other once every few years is a different person on Facebook! I entered her world, spoke her "language," watched first to see how she communicated on FB, then joined in her activity, on her terms. I know that when we see each other in person again (my world!), we will have a much different--more positive--experience, since I first joined her in her world.

Balancing: I am careful to maintain good FB etiquette, not taking too many turns in a row and keeping my conversation pieces short--about as long as hers. If she does not write back to me immediately, I wait "silently but with anticipation" for her to respond. She always does.

Being Responsive: I respond to the little things she says on FB--things she cares about, such as the new hairdo she's sprouting in her new profile picture or responding to a questionairre she has "tagged" me on.

Sharing control: I am careful not to dominate the conversation, but take her lead at least about half the time and introduce my own topics about half the time. I don't deluge her with questions or get "teachy" or "preachy" with her. Then when I have something really important to say, she appears to really listen.

Being Emotionally Connected: We have established a warm, caring relationship with each other. I'll send a private note of condolence when she has posted something about having a rotten day, and we commisserated with each other when we were both missing our "sweeties" (my husband was out of the country for a few weeks and her boyfriend lives in another state). We grumbled together about all the chores we have to get done today, and we came up with a friendly competition to see who can get her housework done first today (she has the unfair advantage of having only her room to clean and little else, but I don't have to go to school today, so we're even!)

I am so enjoying having this new connection with her and all my other nieces and nephews I'm getting to know. Thanks Jim and CP!!!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Uncertainty (and reactions to learning we are moving)

When we told the children the news that we are moving, we received mix reactions. As adults, our reactions were mixed, too, so seeing the mixed reactions in our children was no surprise.

The child who displayed the most emotion is the one who has verbalized the most frustration with uncertainty, and that child has asked questions that illuminate what is going on inside the mind.

One day, he came to me holding a baseball cap from his beloved team, and announced that no matter what his dad said, he would be taking this cap with him when we move. His dad was not going to make him leave that cap, here.

Huh? It took me a long time to figure out where that came from.

My children have always lived in this house. They have never moved. Hubby and I moved four big moves in eight years, all before children. We have an experience bank and episodic memories to draw from. The children have neither.

My son's experience bank includes losing a friend to a move about a year ago. He watched his friend go through a huge move in the midst of a heartbreaking situation (that included an unpleasant divorce and one parent's job loss). He watched this family make some choices about what they would be able to take with them and what they would have to leave behind.

I explained that we would take our "stuff", including beloved baseball caps. His demeanor calmed a bit.

A couple of days later, hubby said son asked what we would take with us and what we would leave behind. They walked through the house together, and hubby showed him what is secured to the house (dishwasher, ceiling fan, kitchen cabinets, etc) that will stay here, and what is not secured that will move with us (refrigerator, furniture, clothing, etc).

When this child displays anger and frustration, I usually find that he's wondering about the move, again, worrying about something.

There are so many details to explain, so many that I didn't think that they would wonder about.

He does not want to have to live in a hotel. His friend moved away, and they had to live in a hotel, and, for some reason, that thought is not a good one for him. Me? I think living in a hotel for a little while in the middle of a move would be way cool, with me not having to cook or clean, having access to a swimming pool, etc.

I explained that yes, we may have to live in a hotel for the short term (the longest we stayed in a hotel for a move was six weeks; the shortest was about a week), and that it will be fun and part of the adventure.

His next question caught me off guard: He would need more suitcases for all of his clothing if we were going to be in a hotel; would I buy a lot more suitcases?

He has never moved before. He has no experience bank to draw from, except that of his friend, and they were completely DIY movers, where they left with all of their belongings. His reference point is different from mine. He has no idea that we will have help packing and someone will load our belongings on a truck for us and transport them separately from our drive to our new location. We all take about a week's worth of clothing for the time in the hotel, while our clothing and belongings are being moved to a new house.

He also thought that we'd just up and move one day, with no advanced notice, and was concerned about knowing at least a day before we move. Again, I realize that perception was based on his friend's move. With a DIY move, they had a lot of flexibility and weren't sure when they would leave. Our move will be scheduled. We'll have a timetable that will fall into place. In the past, we've known weeks before the move what our actual packing day and moving day are. But he doesn't know that.

His anxiety and emotion combined with his questions have surprised me. He's one of my NT kids. I forget that uncertainty affects all of us, affects them, too. He is quite the communicator; all he has to do is verbalize a concern or fear, and we can talk about it.

I am again reminded that my child with autism, whose anxiety can be show-stopping at times, is not much different from the rest of us.

And I ask myself, what about children who are NOT strong communicators, who are not able to make connections to form those questions, or who have the questions but cannot get them out?

I see in a new way why children on the autism spectrum, who are not experienced with managing even little amounts of uncertainty, are anxious and behave in certain ways sometimes.
I see more clearly why previews, visual schedules, and Social Stories(r) are so important for our children with autism. I see how uncertainty and misperceptions add to anxiety and distort our thinking and sometimes leave us frozen. And I know that all of us are going to learn a lot in the next few months, a lot about moving, a lot about ourselves.


The Friendship Circle is competing for a $10K grant from Ford on Facebook. We need your vote (today!) to help secure a spot in front of the judges-panel. Voting ends tomorrow night.

Here is how you can help:

1. “Like” the Ford Focus Facebook Page

2. Vote for our video (Defeating The Label) by pressing “Love It.” FC's Video Submission

3. Share with your readers! There is a list of “share” links underneath our video. Get the word out to your friends to “Love It.”

So here is the kicker…We only have today to gather enough votes to win as we just discovered this contest earlier in the week. So in true, optimistic FC spirit…we jumped and decided it was worth a shot! If you can, please help us spread the word about the voting. As always, we appreciate your support!!

Thank you!

Bassie Shemtov
Life Town Director
248 613 9218

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Girls and Autism and American Girl Magazine

The majority of information about autism is about boys. One in four individuals is male, so more is written about them. I am always tickled to find an article about girls on the spectrum.

FYI: The current (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of American Girl magazine features a story about a 9-year-old young lady on the autism spectrum. The young lady's name is Gina. The story is called, "Finding Her Voice". A video of Gina singing is here. We subscribe to the magazine. I have seen it on magazine stands in the warehouse club. I assume it is available at book stores or your local library if you're interested in reading the article.

GFCFSF Sloppy Joes

Li'l Bit has been begging for Sloppy Joe's. I didn't think she would eat them. I don't like smelly foods all mixed together - the thought almost makes me gag. (I have a few sensory issues.)

After several days of listening to her begging for Sloppy Joes, I looked for recipes. I found two rather quickly. One is a crock pot recipe (that contains cabbage-is that unusual for Sloppy Joes?) from a cookbook I reviewed, Easy Gluten Free. The other recipe came from one of Carol Fenster's cookbooks that I bought from a warehouse club several years ago, Wheat Free Recipes and Menus. (No cabbage in this one.)

We decided on the Carol Fenster recipe. It was a tad dry, and we added some water. I suspect we should have added some tomato sauce, instead (but what do I know? I don't eat Sloppy Joes.) Hubby, who grew up on Sloppy Joe's, says it's bland, that it needs something, but he's not sure what. After some thought, he said next time, we'll omit the cloves. (I am not sure I follow his reasoning, but, he's the Sloppy Joe expert, and I'll have to trust him on that one.)

Here's the Sloppy Joe recipe on gluten-free bun from Ener-G:

And a photo of the recipe page. I do love my StudyPod for holding the cookbook open.
The verdict? Li'l Bit helped us make it; she got some experience reading fractions down to 1/8 tsp, and together we smelled (and described) every spice that went into the ground beef. Cooking with dad and mom is very RDIable. She tried a li'l bit, but she wouldn't eat a whole sandwich. She said it reminded her of GF pizza. I think there's a texture thing for her, and maybe she's a li'l bit like her mom, who does not like a bunch of food mixed together on a bun like that.

Uncertainty and Change

We all need a certain amount of tension and uncertainty in order to thrive and grow. We are bored and stuck when there is no change. Monotony is boring.

We all need "just right" tension, uncertainty, and challenges. Dr Gutstein always referred to that concept as "productive uncertainty". Too much tension, change, uncertainty is overwhelming, produces chaos, and often causes an individual to shut down, or to create sameness, rituals, rigidity, in order to avoid chaos. Many individuals on the autism spectrum experience a big amount of chaos unless they stick to a rigid routine. (There's a blog post about sensing patterns rolling around in my mind at this point, but that would take me on a detour that I don't want to take in this particular post.)

As I think about all of the change we'll experience in this move, sometimes, I feel very overwhelmed and want to resist the change with all of my might. During those times of feeling overwhelmed, I more clearly understand the need for routine and sameness in autism.

As we prepare to make this big move, I am reminded of family systems theorist, Virginia Satir, and what she observed and described as five steps to navigating and incorporating change. (I completed some grad level work in the area of marriage an family therapy in another life, before children. My favorite theorist was (is) Virginia Satir. I still learn a lot from her.)

Here's my take on Satir's five steps to processing change:

First, in my term, is our current 'normal'; it's our life here in the Midwest as we know it. Second, is the tension, the change, the challenge, the uncertainty: the upcoming move. Third is the chaos - which occurs at many levels. While we anticipate the move, our chaos is mental and emotional. As our belongings are packed and moved, we'll have a lot of physical chaos. Fourth is a period of integration, assimilation, accommodation, which all happen at many levels, too. And fifth and last, is our new 'normal'.

There's a much more in depth explanation of the stages, here, if you're interested.

I see myself and my children going up and down between the second, third, and fourth stages. That's to be expected, and it's a good reminder for me that we are feeling and experiencing what everyone feels with big change.

I have something that my children do not have regarding our upcoming move, and it involves the fourth step of integration, assimilation, accommodation: I have the experience bank of having moved before. I have the experience of losing my day-to-day life as I knew it and morphing into a new life in a new city, experiencing some painful losses while simultaneously experiencing pleasurable gains and bonuses that I would never have experienced had we not moved.

Navigating the chaos step is the pressing step at the moment, keeping lines of communication open so the kids are comfortable verbalizing questions, so that we can answer them or begin to find answers, which will reduce some of the temporary chaos. I want to be able to preview for all three of my children (not just the one on the autism spectrum) both the fun and excitement of moving and the loss and change. Right now, they aren't able to picture the fun and excitement of new discoveries in a new town; they've never done that. It's not a part of their experience bank. They must rely on someone who has been through this before (a guide, as in "guided participation") to help them make some sense of a move. (I, on the other hand, have never moved with children, or with a child on the autism spectrum, and am looking for folks who have that experience in their experience banks to guide me as I consider places to look for a home, autism services and supports, schools, etc.)

I want us to look back on the experience having a sense of confidence and competence where we are able to acknowledge the uncertainty while sensing that, although it was big, it is temporary (until the next change) and that we were able to navigate it, and navigate it together, and recognize that we have navigated change before this, and that we will be able to navigate the next change, and the next one, and the next one. I want this move to add many deposits to our experience banks, one that will grow us for the better.

Walking in my daughter's shoes

After reading Dr. Temple Grandin's, "Thinking in Pictures", oh, probably almost 10 years ago, I have sometimes said that if Dr. Grandin can get down on her hands and knees to look through the eyes of a cow, then I can try and I will try to look through the eyes of my daughter (the one who regressed into autism after her first birthday and a chicken pox vaccination).

And I have certainly tried to understand her perspective, to see through her eyes, to walk in her shoes.

As I became an accidental pupil of Gutstein & Sheely, the psychologists who have taught me an enormous amount about autism remediation and infant and child development, about what pieces of development go off course in autism (they call them the "core deficits" of autism), and how to get development on course, seems that every day, at least once, I see examples of what they've taught me, which broadens my window into my daughter's experience.

The window is broadening even more, this time, with an experience. Ya know the line from the song that goes something like this: Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. ?

We're moving. Surprise! It was a surprise to us. A big move. Cross country. From one region to another. We're leaving the Midwest.

And I am getting a first-hand, up-close-and-personal lesson in the difference between "productive uncertainty" and "UNproductive uncertainty", and the frustration and anxiety that "UNproductive uncertainty" can provoke.

I have some thoughts and observations on uncertainty and change - you'll have to stay tuned as I process them out my fingers through the keyboard.

Monday, December 27, 2010

GFCFSF Cheese Sauce

With the encouragement of GFCF Chef Tom Dickinson in a thread on facebook, I attempted a homemade "cheese" sauce. Chef suggested I start with a GFCFSF roux, something I'd never attempted (although I've made a roux with wheat flour and cow's milk a few times). Chef Tom's motto is, "It's not about sacrificing, it's just about replacing." Chef Tom actually suggested a roux of rice milk and arrowroot; I used coconut milk and a GF flour mixture and stuck with a familiar recipe I'd used before I had a child on a GFCFSF diet.

I began by adding Farmo brand pasta made from corn and rice to boiling water.

I began the sauce with a basic roux, that calls for 2 cups of milk (I used boxed coconut milk from So Delicious); 1/4 cup of flour (I used Cybele Pascal's basic blend, except that I use corn in place of potato); and a half stick of butter* (see note below). Melt the butter over medium heat; add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles up well. Do not allow the roux to brown. Add the milk all at one time; cook and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

I added some pink himalayan sea salt from a grinder and a half-teaspoon of dry mustard and whisked that in.

Then I began adding Daiya cheddar flavor shredded "cheese" until the color looked right.

Li'l Bit asks for mac-and-cheese, but won't eat it when I make it. I thought it was because other sauces I've tried are too spicy; this one is not spicy, and still she wasn't feelin' it. *sigh* I think it's a texture issue. She did try it.

She asked for chips to dip into the sauce. That's some creative problem solving! *smile*

From someone who knows how mac-and-cheese is supposed to taste, this attempt is a step in the right direction. This one is a bit bland, and next time, I will add more mustard and more salt, and possibly some Daiya mozarella flavor "cheese". I wonder what other spices I might add that would add flavor without "ick". And I might mix the pasta with the sauce in a casserole dish and crunch up some rice cereal or GF corn flakes on top and bake it for a few minutes. Some chicken or ham or turkey bacon would be good in it. Hmmm. Look at me, creating my own recipe!

The sauce would be good on steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Or maybe asparagus.

My verdict: a little bland; still, it is an excellent first try, and I am encouraged.

*Confession: I use real butter. I know that most GFCFers do not use real butter. However, when my daughter had been on the diet approximately six months, our holistic MD (who was training in the DAN! protocol at the time) told me to try real butter instead of the substitutes we were trying. He'd attended a medical conference on the topic of fats in the diet, and thought butter would be good for her diet, as opposed to substitutes. I resisted. I'd seen my girl regress for four. long. days. after eating ONE teeny cheerio, not once, but twice, in the past six months, and I wanted no part of a deliberate infraction. Dr. N. said that there isn't enough casein in butter to affect some children; that only the most sensitive individuals would react to the miniscule amount of casein that might be in butter. I thought he was crazy. A month or so later, over a holiday break with my parents here helping, I decided to give butter a try. We saw no infraction reaction/regression, and while I do not serve her food made with butter all of the time, I do use it. It is the only milk product I use in her food and I buy organic.

Weird is GOOD!

Celebrate it!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guided Participation in a Cisco commercial

This commercial caught my eye.

In the first part of the commercial, watch how Lil not only breaks down the skill into little pieces, but watch how she waits for her student, Ellen Page, to reference her, to position her own spoons, before she moves forward.

The slowing down, adjusting our pacing, waiting for our daughter to orient not only her body, but first, her attention, to us, was something we missed in the early days. Behavioral intervention was all about the skill, and we missed allowing our child to join attention with us, orient herself. We missed the most important non-verbal interaction foundation piece.

“Ok first you have two spoons…put your finger in the middle of the spoons…and bang them back and forth.”

Okay, I know it's a commercial. Still, it reminds me how naturally we alter our pacing with someone who gives us that non-verbal feedback (even when we're not in the same house, when we're using technology), and how we can assume some children are not capable of giving that feedback, so we rush, rob them of the opportunity to shift attention and orient their gaze and body, instead of giving them the extra processing time they need to be active participants.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Proof *wink*

Friday, December 24, 2010


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Monday, December 20, 2010


Random thoughts...

My newest niece was born this morning. She is named after me. ;)

Saturday was test day at Learn-to-Skate; Eldest passed Basic 3; Li'l Bit didn't. I figured Li'l Bit wouldn't care that she didn't pass; I was wrong. She cried in the car. We were able to show her the two skills she needs to work on and pass in order to move to Basic4, and she seemed to process that information, although she was still upset about it. Her upset over perceived failure is interesting to observe; I see how much progress she is making and where she still needs experience.

Fast forward to today. The girls wanted to skate today, their first official day of CHRISTmas vacation, so I took them to a different arena from the place where they Learn-to-Skate.
As she got onto the ice today, I asked Li'l Bit what two skills she needs to work on so that she can pass Basic 3, and she actually spent some time and effort on skills. I've never seen her do that. She usually does her own thing during free skate times, and refuses to work on anything she learned in lessons. I was impressed with her focus. (I realized later that she was not working on the right skills, so I have to spotlight those for her, again, but the fact that she spent time and energy on skills today still astounds me.)

There were approximately 10 people on the ice today, and two of the individuals there were brothers, younger than my girls, who were practicing hockey skills. The arena does not usually allow hockey sticks and pucks on the ice. I was worried they'd be wild and all over the place, in the way, discourteous. I had nothing to worry about. These young men took care to stay on the side or at one end and out of traffic as they tossed a puck between them.

Sidebar: Li'l Bit sometimes tries to engage kids on the ice. At Learn-to-Skate, the kids play tag during free time, and she has tried to start a game of tag in this setting, too, with kids who are strangers to us, and they sometimes make fun of her, talk about her, pick on her. I hate that. Eldest hates that, too. Helping Li'l Bit understand what is appropriate and what is not is really challenging when they're skating and I'm watching from the sidelines. (I don't skate.)

Today, one of those boys dropped his hockey stick and she was close to it and picked it up and gave it to him. Then she tried to engage them a little. I told her to give them room, that they need room to practice hockey, instead of telling her to stay away from them.

A few minutes later, the puck sailed to her, and she scooped it up and returned it to them, even when one of them said, "it's okay, I've got it".

I kept waiting for one of them to say something mean to her.

And they didn't.

They were so kind. They even waved to her when she skated past them.

I walked around the arena to tell their dad "thank you" for his generous, gracious boys.

I'm thankful for my new niece; for witnessing my girl working on skating skills; for kind strangers on the ice with my girls.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Toy Ideas - (a positive radio show)

Sometimes, I hear really useful information on a radio show. Take, for instance, My Great Kid's show dedicated an entire show to talk about toys for children. In addition to interviewing Toy Expert Elizabeth Werner about the hot toys, video games and shopping ideas for the this year's Christmas season, they talked with Chris Matthews co-owner of Razzmatazz Toys.

Watch this web site for podcast info even after the holidays if you're looking for more toy ideas that use the imagination and incorporate active participation.

One toy that Werner described is something I want to look for. I'd like to see it up close. It's by Lego, and it is called Creationary. I found it on the internet here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Martha, (about your radio station...)

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.

Dear Martha Stewart,

I was given a limited subscription to SIRIUS radio when we traded automobiles. There are so many stations from which to choose! Some are G rated, wholesome, family appropriate. Some are not. I expected Martha Stewart's channel to be one of the G rated channels. I had no idea that your station would be inappropriate to listen to, especially when my children are in the car with me.

Twice, one of my children and I have gotten into the car in the evening (last night the time was around 5 pm, EST) when your station was on. When I turned on the car, the voices of your hosts came on, too, with vulgarity.

I don't use that kind of slang for body parts and intimacy when I talk with other adults in any of my circles; I certainly don't use those vulgarities in front of my children.

When I listen to Martha Stewart radio, I expect to hear recipes, ideas for crafts, things to help me make warm up my home, create family traditions. I expect clean, wholesome content.

I'm disappointed. And I've learned my lesson. Don't listen to Martha Stewart's radio channel because you can't trust it to be family friendly.

Please remind your hosts that children may be listening in the car with a parent and that your hosts don't have to speak aloud every thought that comes to their minds.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

I wish you could hear what I hear...

I wish you could hear what I hear. I hear the sound of milestones and maybe a discovery.

Big Sis is memorizing lines for her part in a play. She wanted someone to run lines with her. Li'l Bit offered.

Background: Li'l Bit (diagnosed w/ an autism spectrum disorder) hates to try to read, avoids schoolwork with protests and resistance that sometimes head toward meltdowns. All those things create great anxiety for Li'l Bit.

And Li'l Bit offered to help Big Sis run lines.


And she is.


Reading. Aloud. Following the script, reading "her" part, pausing for Big Sis's part.

She's even adding some inflection. You should have heard her say, "They're afraaaaaaaaaid." Her voice is going up at the right part when her character asks a question, too.

She couldn't sound out "appreciate" and Big Sis helped her, and Li'l Bit let her help her, and kept going.

You have *no idea* what a BIG DEAL this is...

PS: Big Sis, amazingly, has her part pretty much memorized.


Several days ago, the Tennessean featured a story about rising autism rates (and how poorly prepared schools, how poorly trained teachers are, for students on the autism spectrum). According to the article, "The number of children with autism served by Tennessee's public schools more than tripled from 2001 to 2007, rising from 1,293 to 4,019."

This morning, the same newspaper features a story about how Tennessee now leads the nation in vaccinations for kids. "Tennessee has moved from the middle of the pack to the top spot among states for early childhood immunization in the last five years, and children are benefiting." There is no mention of vaccine injury reports, so we don't know if injuries increased. The writer of the article leaves the reader to think that there are only benefits and no risks to vaccines, which is misleading.

Is the rise in autism rates in Tennessee independent from the increase in childhood immunization there? Or are the two related? I suppose the real question is will autism numbers increase as pre-schoolers vaccinated in the past five years enter the public school system. Food for thought.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wits & Wagers Family from North Star Games, a TOS Crew Review

North Star Games sent me and some of my Crewmates a board game called Wits & Wagers Family.

The age range for Wits & Wagers Family is 8+ and for those of us with more than four in our families, Wits & Wagers is a 3-10 player game (woo hoo!).

The game is easy to learn, easy to set up, does not require a lot of reading and studying the rules before you begin. In a nutshell, you draw a card, read a question from the card, each player makes a guess at an answer, players compare answers, vote on the answer each player (or team) thinks is best using one or two Meeples, check the back of the question card for the correct answer, score.

We learned a lot of history and trivia when we played this game. There are 150 question cards; each card contains two questions (yes, that's a total of 300 questions). Each question is read aloud; each player or team of players guesses the answer (the answer is always a number, how much, how many, how long, how fast, what percent, etc) and then players vote (wager) on which answer is closest to the correct answer without going over.

Right off the bat, we were stumped - the first question we read was about Fruit Loops cereal. I don't buy Fruit Loops because one of my children can't have them (Fruit Loops are not gluten free). Didn't matter that we were stumped, because Wits & Wagers is a guessing game, and we were able to guess, and ultimately score our answers.

My homeschooler and I had fun naming all of the Disney Princessess as we tried to guess how many there are; there is lots of Disney trivia here.

On the answer side of each card, Wits & Wagers Family gives us additional info about something in the question. (Did you know that Joe Jonas auditioned for a part on Wizards of Waverly Place? I didn't, until we got to that card.)

I like the way the game uses kid-friendly questions. I like the fact that we can play a really short game for a child with a short attention span. I like the way the questions are worded, and we talked through the answers aloud, some together (yes, I know that is not the intent of the game, but the questions are worded for "we-go" and collaborating, too, and we are working on that at my house in our autism intervention, and this game is a wonderful activity for that).

We get to work on "guestimating" in a fun way, where we can not be close to the correct answer and still earn points (by voting for an answer we believe is better). Players gain practice and experience making appraisals in Wits & Wagers Family, too. Because a lot of the answers are impossible to know, there's a lot of guessing without pressure in a game, which leads to laughter, when you realize how far over or under your answer is.

I think that we may try to write some of our own questions for the game. Might be fun to measure people or items in our home in feet or inches and make up a question for "our" version of the game.

My teenager wants to play this game with a group of friends in teams. She says that will be "sooo much fun!"

Wits & Wagers Family is a keeper at our house.

Wits & Wagers Family retails for $19.99 and is available at major retailers in stores and online.

North Star Games has a facebook page here.

Read my Crewmates' experiences with Wits & Wagers Family HERE.

North Star Games sent me a Wits & Wagers Family game in exchange for my review and opinion about it. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Learning About The Elements

Sometimes, a book is gorgeous enough that you want to share the title with others. I would have loved this book in high school (many moons ago) when I was studying the periodic chart.

I went to my first-ever Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale today. One of the item on my wish list was the book pictured to the left, "The Elements, A Visual Exporation of Every Known Atom in the Universe".

Weeks ago, I saw it in a Scholastic sale flyer that one of my middle schoolers brought home from school. I considered buying it then, and decided to wait.

I bought it today.

The warehouse sale price is $15. (The flyer price was $20.)

The photographs are *stunning*. They make a person want to look at the pages, read about each element.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Almost 13.5 years ago, in the middle of the night, while I was awake with a newborn, as I surfed the web, I stumbled across an internet group for moms. I lurked for a while, and then I joined the chatting.

Over the years, many of the group have met one another in person, for some grand weekends of laughter, food, and fun.

The group has become tight-knit. We protect one another. We help one another. We have shared everything from recipes to tears. We have supported one another through cross-country moves, divorce, marriage, a whole lotta pregnancies, the first grandchild, miscarriage, two sets of twins, autism, job loss, death of a parent, death of a husband, the unthinkable, unbearable deaths of two babies, one a child, one a grandchild. And we've supported one another through the "c" word. Cancer.

We experienced an awful first today. We lost one of us.

We lost Jill today. She was a great person. Smart. Funny. Gracious. Blunt. Down to earth. An incredible writer. She hated the pink campaign for breast cancer, the disease that she fought so couragously. (I always think of Jill when I see a pink anything.) She loved her husband, her precious son, her family. She fought hard. I did not have the privilege to meet her in person on this side of heaven. I'm privileged to have known her as a cyber-friend for many years.

Jill, we miss you.

Good deals at the Borders store closing

Eldest and I share a love for books.

We headed over to one of our local Borders stores. It is closing. All books were 30% off; all bargain books were 40% off; and toys and games were 40% off.

I walked around the store like a deer in the headlights while my daughter focused on her favorite section.

This book caught my eye, and at 30% off, I bought it. It's good enough to share with my readers. No more searching for game ideas on the internet, looking for games that incorporate perspective taking, attention sharing, or some other social or relationship piece.

I already have an idea or two from it...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Activity Idea - Tis The Season To Wrap Presents

For families intervening with Relationship Development Intervention or Communicating Partners, finding just right activities to use as background activities for relationship and partner practice is sometimes challenging.

I always seemed to be thinking too big, too difficult. (Sometimes I still struggle with that.)

Sometimes, the just right activity was right under my nose, like gift wrapping in December.

Think about it. You can easily set up two distinct roles. Here's a very basic version: Parent is the wrapper/paper folder. Child is the taper.

For the child who needs practice sharing attention and joining (and honoring limits by staying with the adult while giving up some control to the adult), the parent will probably want to make the process as simple as possible. Measure your wrapping paper against your gifts and cut your pieces ahead of time. Tear off a bunch of short strips of tape and line them up on the edge of a dining room chair or a big book so that the child's job is to lift the tape from that line-up and press it onto the paper you folded. Have your gift tag made ahead of time, so that all that is left to do is affix it with tape to the wrapped gift. Have bows nearby, ready to affix to packages. Put away any unnecessary objects (scissors, pen, extra gift tags, etc). Have your child join you and wrap, using as few words as possible, but using rich, animated non-verbal communication.

Gift-wrapping is an activity that encompasses a really wide variety of non-verbal, foundational, developmental objectives. Gaze shifting. Attention sharing. Coordinating actions. Sharing control. Perspctive taking. I could write a very long list.

Here's an excerpt from my journal from three years ago that illuminates my daughter's ability to assume different roles (don't fret if you're not there yet, you will get there):

She sat across the wrapping paper from me. Sometimes I cut the paper, sometimes she did, sometimes I cut it halfway and handed her the scissors to finish where I had trouble reaching.

She was in charge of the tape, and I kept getting my fingers in her way -- accidently -- and she navigated the challenge. (I wish I had thought to put my fingers in her way...!!! LOL!) Sometimes she missed the seam and had to re-tape--she was so resilient there. We were wrapping by the light of the Christmas tree, and we really didn't have enough light to see what we were doing, and yet she was really competent! We wrapped some oddly shaped gifts, and she co-regulated and coordinated beautifully--I gave her very little direction, even non-verbally. She just jumped in and did whatever supported me as I led. Just beautiful!

We talked briefly about different wrapping paper, that Nana likes birds and one sheet had cardinals on it. Poppa has a golf cart (but does not play golf) and we had one sheet printed with pics of Santa playing golf with a golf cart all lit up in Christmas lights in the background, so we wrapped my dad's present in that paper. We talked about her cousins as we wrapped their presents. She's ask, "Is that my cousin?" She's barely met them at all--she doesn't know them, really, but is trying to place the people we're wrapping for. She is really starting to ask thoughtful, curious questions. I can tell she is connecting dots more often.

A quiet room illuminated by the lights of the CHRISTmas tree, a slow pace, few words and little "talk", lots of "non-verbaling", some gifts, wrapping paper, tape, etc, provide a wonderful background for some practice in relationship development and communicating partners.

Debate: Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

"December 13, 2010 at 8 PM CST Do vaccines cause autism? Jay Wile, PhD and Boyd Haley, PhD will debate live. The debate is on, and is available to you and without cost. Information will be updated here as the specifics of the debate unfold. You can sign up now for free, at the link below."

Monday, December 6, 2010

My First GFCF Bundt Cake

I am trying a GFCF recipe from a new cookbook I received to review.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Celebrate the Season

I love this song, especially at CHRISTmastime...

Mary, Did You Know?

Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Salsify, Apple, Brussels Sprouts, & Apple Cider Jus

I learned something new this week. Wiley will send me a recipe and photo (and permission to post it) from a review cookbook for my readers to enjoy. Here's a mouth-watering recipe from the Winter section of "Fresh From the Market". The recipe is gluten, casein (dairy), soy, nut, and egg free.

Roasted Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Salsify, Apple, Brussels Sprouts, & Apple Cider Jus
(Recipe photo by Quentin Bacon)

Berkshire pigs are renowned for their tender, flavorful, and juicy meat.

The name is derived from Berkshire County in the United Kingdom, where this breed dates back nearly four hundred years. They have been carefully cultivated in America since the late 1800s.


Caramelized Vegetables and Apples
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 pound salsify, peeled and cut into 11/2-inch pieces
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 6 wedges
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 cups apple cider
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
3 pork tenderloins, 1 pound each, cut in half crosswise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Prepare the vegetables

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the lemon juice. Add the salsify and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Immediately transfer the salsify to a bowl of ice water. Once cool, drain and pat dry.

Bring another saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the Brussels sprouts until tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the Brussels sprouts to a bowl of ice water. Once cool, drain and pat dry.

Prepare the pork

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the fennel seeds, juniper berries, black peppercorns, allspice,
and mustard seeds in a small sauté pan over medium heat and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Once toasted, transfer the spices to a spice grinder and coarsely grind. Season the pork with salt and the spice mixture. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron pan over high heat. Sear the tenderloins on all sides, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer the tenderloins to a plate.

Caramelize the vegetables and apples

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the cast-iron pan over high heat. Add the apples and sugar and cook until the apples begin to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to a plate. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pan and add the pearl onions, garlic, and thyme and sauté for 1 minute. Add the blanched salsify and Brussels sprouts and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Deglaze with the apple cider and vinegar, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the apples to the pan.

Finish cooking the pork

Arrange the pork on top of the vegetables and apples. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the pork registers 160˚F, about 8 minutes. Allow the pork to rest for 3 to 4 minutes before slicing. To serve Divide the vegetables and apples among 6 plates. Slice the tenderloins and arrange them on top. Spoon the pan juices around the pork and serve.

Wine suggestion

Serve this dish with a rich and creamy Chardonnay that offers flavors of golden apples, pain grille, and mouth-watering acidity, such as Chardonnay, Patz and Hall, 2006, Russian River Valley, California.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unusual recipe has me wondering...

I am going through some cookbooks in a search for something new. We're still tired of the same old recipes. I want something we all can eat. The something new must be GFCFSF+++. I'm not in the mood to convert a recipe. I found one, but I can't begin to imagine how it will taste, and half of me wants to try it, and the other half is afraid to try it because it may taste horrible.

What do you think?

The title: Dill Pickle-Marinated Chicken Tenders With Dilly Dipping Sauce. I found the recipe in the 2007 Southern Living Annual Recipes Cookbook.

The chicken is marinated in pickle juice with some other ingredients prior to grilling. I found a similar recipe here.

What do your tastebuds say as you think about the recipe title?

Friday, December 3, 2010

FYI: Sale alert

FYI: From today through Dec. 12th, customers will receive 35% off plus free ground shipping on with promo code FRIENDS.

Chronicle Publishing has the new "Cake Pops" cookbook and a brand new gluten free cookbook among the offerings.

Guest Post: How To Stop a "Runner" by JillY

If you're seeing this twice, I hit "publish" too soon, and deleted the first post. Here's the ready-for-print version.

I follow a yahoo group of parents and professionals who discuss the methods of "Dr. Jim", aka Dr. James D. MacDonald, who teaches us his "Play to Talk" and "Communicating Partners".

We've been discussing the topic of children who are "runners", on the yahoo list and one mom's reply really spotlights the way we parents must hold responsibility for the child's side of the interaction, and gently hand over that responsibility to the child, how we must control boundaries and set limits in the process, and how we parents must be consistent.

Here is one mother's experience in stopping a runner:

We recently adopted a 4.5 year old son with DS. He'd been with birth mom until he came to us. She's been locking the doors so that he didn't take off, and he would every opportunity. About a week after he came to us, he left our home and took off. My husband secretly followed him to see what he'd do. He walked about a block away very near a highway before my husband revealed his presence. Since we have many other children with two being younger than him, we decided that we needed to work on this immediately as it was a serious safety issue. In addition, his birth mom felt that she couldn't take him anywhere as he'd take off from her. So we treated it as a behavior issue and, in about a month, we had a changed boy.

This is what we did. We'd leave our doors unlocked when we were able to provide consistent close supervision, then when he'd go out we'd give him a holding uh-oh ( as we learned from Dr. Jim). Sometimes it would be 5-10 of them in a row, but we never stopped doing it until he stopped going outside by himself.

We also worked on him staying near us in public. First, we didn't give him any freedom till he had learned to follow our simple directions, come, stop, etc. So we used a stroller or hiking back pack everywhere we went during the first 4-6 weeks. As he learned to follow directions, then we'd give him more freedom as long as he'd listen and stay by us. If he'd repeatedly wander away and not stop after a couple of holding uh-ohs, we'd put him back in the stroller/backpack to stay until we went home.

We saw his birth mom for the first time today since three months ago when he came to us. She was shocked at the change in this area. We met at a McDonald's play land and he never once tried to leave until it was time for everyone to go. When we first met him four months ago, we couldn't relax- three adults and some of our older kids- vigilantly watching him at a McDonald's play land to make sure that he didn't bolt.

Now at home, he has the job of letting the dog in and out when she needs to go in or out and he doesn't go outside without us (very rarely he'll go outside without an adult to play when the other kids are outside, but he doesn't bolt anymore).

It was very labor intensive, but very well worth it for the long term results. He's not a small kid, so my muscles were sore every morning when I woke as we'd have to give so many uh-ohs in the course of a day, but I can't imagine living like they had before with our big family. No one would have been able to go outside to play. It was so worth the investment. His therapists have seen how well the holding uh-ohs work and they now use them when his behavior is inappropriate. Someone at a special needs gym class recently was shocked that he listened so well to directions especially being newly adopted (behavioral issues being the main reason for the adoption placement, but she didn't know this) since her daughter with DS was off every which way. I told her our secret and she was very impressed. Dr. Jim gets a lot of word of mouth referral from our family!

We also used this same approach (removing freedom) for wandering the house at night. At first we’d doing the holding when we found him wandering, then when he continued to get out of bed, we decided that we needed to take more action as reasonable sleep is a necessary thing and I can’t function being up for hours in the middle of the night regularly and worrying about his safety. So, the loss of freedom was changed to buckling him into his five point car seat that if he wanders at night( There are seats that go to at least 65 pounds that are five point). Then we tip it back part way (leaning it on a small toddler couch so that it was safe, comfortable and secure). It’s amazing to see him stay in bed at night when he wakes and now he’s not getting up at crazy early times anymore ( 5 am) either as he’d gotten used to being released if he were buckled in at 7am.)

We came to this group for our newest son who came to us with one word three months ago, but we've learned so much that has helped us to parent our other children more effectively.

Thank you, Dr. Jim!

As always, JillY and I are not professionals; this is not meant to be professional advice; it is one mom's experience. Please have a professional guide you with appropriate techniques and strategies as you intervene with your child.

Thank you, JillY, for giving me permission to share your story here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Knot So Fast

When Timberdoodle contacted me about reviewing Knot So Fast, I was intrigued. A game of knot making??? The autism-therapy-mom in me became excited with the possibiities.

A game like this one could be the background activity for a list of developmental and relationship objectives, for speech and communication, for fine motor work, for motor planning, for plain 'ol fun.

Priced at $17.25 (retail $20.00) on the Timberdoodle web site, Knot So Fast is a game for one to four players ages eight and up. It's meant to be a family game, a race, with the objective to see who can tie knots in the soft game ropes faster than the other players by following steps on one of the 40 challenges pictured on cards that are a part of the game.

Like many families with a child on the autism spectrum, and like many homeschoolers, we tend to change the rules and make games our own, and this is no exception. We have used it a little bit outside of the rules and I have plans to continue to use it in more ways outside of the game rules.
When the game arrived, I was experiencing a horrible upper respiratory virus that sent me into coughing fits when I exerted myself. Talking, walking across the room, being upright prompted choking coughs, and I watched the kids play with the game from a prone position on the couch.

My eldest was really intrigued by the game, and her interest showed me more uses for the game. Eldest played alone, competing with herself, challenging herself to study the cards and create the knots.

By comparison, my homeschooler, my learner with special needs, resisted the whole thing, choosing to turn several ropes into one big mess. (FYI: The mess she made was easy to untangle. I like the texture of the ropes. They shape easily and unknot just as easily.) I know where she is, developmentally, and I am able to choose some simple knots to show her as a confidence builder. It was interesting to me to compare the two reactions; one child dove into the challenge head first; one resisted.

I can work with resistance, and Knot So Fast will give the two of us some opportunities to conquer some of it with the game as background activity.

One of our developmental objectives has been to give our girl opportunities to copy our meaningful actions, where she is responsible for focusing her attention on the right things to create a positive outcome - showing her how to tie a knot is one way to do that. She gets developmental practice and learns to tie different knots at the same time.

Eventually, I will have HER show ME, tell me how to tie a knot, and we'll write the steps down together. We'll get some speech practice with the game. She's not ready for that, yet, but she will be one of these days.

One of the other things that my eldest brought to my attention was the educational value of the game. She kept asking, "Why would anyone need to learn to make this kind of knot?" Each challenge card offers a brief explanation about what that particular knot is used for, and I can imagine our making a little unit study about knots using this game in our homeschool.

I wonder if one person could direct another person, blindfolded, to tie a knot, using nothing but spoken directions? Hmmmm.

In addition to being a family game, I think that Knot So Fast would be a workbox activity (one new knot with one rope in a box); a great travel game (I'd leave the little hourglass timer at home). Speech therapists, occupational therapists, professionals who work with students on the autism spectrum would have fun with clients while working on therapy goals within the context of a game. Knot So Fast could be a neat gift for your favorite OT or autism therapist.

We enjoy looking through the catalog that came in the mail; there are lots of unique toys at Timberdoodle.

Visit Timberdoodle for your homeschooling needs, for single player games (great for workboxes); and for family and educational games. Free catalogs for homeschoolers are available here. Timberdoodle has a facebook page, too.

Legal Disclosure:

As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of Knot So Fast in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Monday, November 29, 2010

GFCFSF Edible Cookie Ornaments

Edible Cookie Ornaments

4 cups powdered sugar

half stick margarine or butter

1/3 cup corn syrup...

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

Sparkle Gel Icing

Mix ingredients (except Sparkle Gel Icing) together into a dough, adding a few drops of water if the dough is too dry and crumbly or adding more powdered sugar if the dough is too moist. Form dough into a ball, then roll dough out flat between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper; cut out shapes w/ cookie cutter (smaller is better), be sure to do what we forgot in this picture, use a straw to poke a hole in your edible cookie ornament before you decorate. Decorate. We used tubes of sparkle gel icing. Allow to dry. String a ribbon through the hole, hang on your tree! ;)

Recipe adapted from one I found in a Southern Living annual cookbook.

There are more gluten free cookie recipes here:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holidays and Homeschooling

The Tennessean featured a short article a few days ago: Home-school notes: Learning moments mix into holiday festivities. In the article, author Kristen Kindoll describes how she shifts learning opportunities during the holidays.

"I began to incorporate themed projects", she writes.

Some of us homeschool using themed projects as our core method, because that is the way our students best learn. When auditory processing challenges combined with reading and math delays make reading and worksheets torture, themed projects aka project based learning is an effective (and fun) alternative. Education Nation devotes quite a few pages to the "why bother" and "how to" of project based learning. There is information on project based learning, the importance, and some of the challenges, at

Back to the newspaper article. Kindoll continues, "Planning the Thanksgiving meal together, I could correlate the importance of incorporating the food pyramid principles. As my children played with new gifts, I found a great backdrop to the occasion with listening to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol."

I love those ideas! I'm always looking for ways to incorporate information and academics, in context, into what we already do. Moms sharing ideas, sharing how they incorporated content delivery outside of the book and worksheet, is so very helpful for me as we help a child on the autism spectrum make an important discovery that she is, indeed, a learner.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Episodic Memory

Autism Spectrum Quarterly features an article about eposidic memory.

RDIConnect dot com makes it available for all of us to read, HERE.

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Created by OnePlusYou -

Stat Counter