Saturday, October 30, 2010
I don't read much fiction about all things autism. I don't read much fiction, period.
In Unlocked, author Karen Kingsbury tells the fictional story of Holden Harris, an 18-year-old young man who regressed into autism after too many vaccinations at once when he was three. At 18, Holden is still largely non-speaking, non-communicative. His odd behaviors set him apart everywhere he goes. He's often picked on because of his behaviors. At school, he and a long lost playmate from their toddler years rediscover one another, and Unlocked becomes the story of many transformations in the characters.
Kingsbury does a good job of taking the perspective of Holden's mother, I think. I identify with her a lot.
She writes a good story. Kingsbury gives incredible insight to Holden, and his thoughts. The young man who struggles so to communicate with others has no trouble communicating with himself or with his God. Kingsbury has characters who are around Holden, particularly his mother and one of his friends, experienced at perspective taking, reading between the lines, putting clues together to understand Holden's behaviors in a way that I wish more of society could do, would do.
Kingsbury weaves prayer and scripture throughout the realistic story, which is sometimes shocking and sad along with hopeful and uplifting.
Unlocked was a sweet diversion for me, taking me away to Georgia for a while, watching the story unfold in my mind. I felt guilty at times, seeing how my faith has faltered at times compared to that of Holden's strong mother, Tracy. Kingsbury captures the unending hope that we parents of children with autism have, hope for getting our children back from whatever stole them in the regression.
Some of the anecdotes that Karen penned in the book are so spot-on that I wondered if she knows someone on the autism spectrum. Following the end of the story, Kingsbury explains that Holden and the story is modeled after a transformation that she witnessed in real life, a young man she came to know because of her own children.
Kingsbury leaves readers with 20 questions for discussion for groups and book clubs. If you didn't identify with someone in the story, I suspect you will if you read those questions and think about them.
Amazon dot com has Unlocked priced (on sale) at $6.49. Karen Kingsbury has a facebook fan page and a web site, http://www.karenkingsbury.com/.
Friday, October 29, 2010
I detest messy stuff and avoid it when possible. After experimenting with Yuck, I still don't like messy stuff, but I appreciate the learning value of it. My homeschooler was quite engaged as we experiment with Yuck, particularly the Chunky Yuck, which we
One of my school-building-schoolers joined us in our Yuck experiments after school.
Yuck from Buckets-O-Fun is non-toxic, sensory-stimulating, kinesthetic and tactile learning at its best. You put some crumbs, flakes, or powder into a bowl, add water, and watch what happens next. Depending upon which product you use, you wind up with gel in the shape of ice cubes or the consistency of slime (snot) or something like snow.My husband came home from work after we'd been adding cups of water to the chunky Yuck for 24 hours and asked why I had a bucket of ice on the dining room table. It looks exactly like ice. It feels like gelatin.
The notes warning me not to pour the product down the sink or into the toilet had me concerned. I used disposable containers and utensils, items that I could toss in the garbage, items that didn't need to be washed. If you're taking photos, the photographer may choose not to touch the stuff in order to keep his/her hands clean for photographer duties. And the person recording the information will need clean hands, too.
I can imagine Yuck being a fun activity for a homeschool co-op, for a Sunday School or church activity, for a social skills or play group, for a school-building-school classroom. Summer camp programs, extended school year programs and Vacation Bible School or Buddy Break programs would be fun places to use Yuck outdoors where the product can be desposed of easily and children can be hosed off with a garden hose.
We were given small samples; Yuck is available for purchase beginning in one-pound packages that range from $16-$20, depending upon which type of Yuck is chosen.
I was given samples of Yuck so that I could review it for TOS Crew. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Often, "market" cookbooks focus on whole foods which happen to offer a good number of GFCFSF recipes.
When I opened the package containing Fresh From The Market, Seasonal Cooking With Laurent Tourondel and Charlotte March, ($35.00, hardback) the book automatically flipped open to a recipe for Spicy Crispy Chicken from the Spring section, a gluten-free roasted chicken with eight spices in the recipe list. I wonder if I dare make this one in autumn?
The cookbook is beautiful. Heavy; weighty. The pictures are gorgeous. As Thanksgiving approaches, I peeked at the Roasted Turkey with Chestnut-Sausage Stuffing, Cranberry-Grenadine Relish, and Rosemary Gravy recipe. Makes your mouth water, doesn't it? And with a gluten-free bread in the stuffing, only the gravy needs substitutions for the cream and flour in order for the entire thing to be GFCFSF.
The authors give us a little bit of everything, from drink recipes, to breakfast recipes, salads that I'd consider for lunch, dinner recipes, and holiday recipes. They provide lists of seasonal foods by month and sample holiday menus. The table-of-contents is HERE. Amazon dot com shares a recipe HERE.
It is an education for me; I'm learning new vocabulary. For example, I learned that the ramps used in the cookbook are wild leeks, and I'm pretty sure I've not seen them at our farmer's market. Mache is a kind of lettuce. Burrata and Fiscaliini are cheeses. Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert. There is so much to learn. I did expect it to use more 'ordinary' ingredients from the market and not so many 'unusual' ones.
Laurent Tourondel and Charlotte March use quite a few ingredients that I have not seen at local markets and would likely be challenged to find, including quail eggs, milk-fed veal sweetbreads, rabbit, skate, duck eggs, or wild boar.
My complaint is that the text is much too small for my past-the-midpoint between 40-&-50 year-old eyes, even with reading glasses.
If you're looking for gluten free, or dairy free, or allergen free recipes, there are some sprinkled throughout the book, although the authors use quite a bit of cheese, milk, eggs, nuts. If you're experienced at making your own substitutions for food sensitivities, you'll find more that you can use than people who aren't confident making substitutions in "regular" recipes.
Many of the recipes are what I consider too fancy for everyday, although maybe I need to rethink my perspetive on that one. (We are worth some fancy foods! Pigs in a Blanket "Ritz Carlton" might be a fun place to begin, although the store-bought frozen puff-pastry in the recipe isn't gluten free) Most of the recipes that I will use will be altered in some way (partly because of our food sensitivities and partly because the ingredients are challenging to find); for example, the butternut squash soup sounds delicious, however, I am sure that I will not make the Foie Gras and Wild Mushroom Crostini to accompany it.
Fresh From The Market, Seasonal Cooking With Laurent Tourondel and Charlotte March is a lovely cookbook as I learn more about seasonal buying, cooking, and eating. I'm thrilled to add it to my collection.
A couple of years ago, I was given a free subscription-based protection program (costing $50 a year had I chosen to renew it) as part of a huge package of freebies that came with a magazine subscription. The program that I was given caused us many problems and I have not looked at another program since then, until recently, with PG Key.
PG Key is a "key" that you plug in to your computer that allows the parent to block web sites, like the pesky game web sites that send those pop-ups to our computer.
The pros: PG Key is a one-time $49.95 purchase. Look for it at Office Max. There are no yearly subscription fees. PG Key does a lot more than block web sites; I can set time limits; view what web sites my children have viewed and what words they've searched; view both sides of e-mail or chat; I can filter searches; and I can choose different settings for each child. PG Key's protection coverage of options a parent may access is quite thorough.
The cons: Like a subscription-based product that I used in the past and gave up on because it gave me big headaches by blocking web sites that I did not authorize (like my own blog), PG Key has its quirks and setting it up to allow what you want and what you don't want takes some time and effort, and you, the user, must decide how much time and effort you're willing to give. There are times that life is chaotic enough without having to navigate filtering software. I confess that after my experience with the subscription based product, my patience for getting it right using PG Key is too short; others on the Crew stayed with it longer than I did. Try it before you buy it. (I do love a free trial!) A free trial is available upon request at http://www.pgkey.com/.
To read other Crewmates' reviews of PG Key, go HERE.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I've said it before; I'll say it again:
I wish I could find the thing for me that does what skating does for my girl.
These short clips show a progression from this week's lesson.
LOOK AT THIS SMILE:
changing gears; something different:
Saturday, October 23, 2010
I'm so proud of both of my girls! LOOK at how far Eldest has come in such a *short* time. And watch Little Bit handle her first group test without missing a beat! :)
Going backwards creates a lot of uncertainty for my girl. One OT told me that going backwards for a child who uses her vision to tell her where she is in space (as opposed to her proprioception) may feel as if she's backing into the Grand Canyon when you ask her to walk backwards on a strip of masking tape on the floor, on a balance beam, or on skates. Little Bit sometimes protests (loudly) when asked to skate backwards.
At learn-to-skate, I met the parents of a little boy on the autism spectrum. (A God-incidence. Out of all the parents at learn-to-skate in the bleachers, this mom and I found one another right away.) The little boy amazes me in so many ways. At a pre-school level, his facial referencing is nothing short of amazing to me. If my girl could have referenced like that at five or six, I think we'd be in a different place today.
He is absolutely adorable. Precious. His smile lights up the ice. ;) He's quite resilient. And quite the creative problem solver: He likes to fall on purpose, probably for the combination of proprioceptive input he gets from it and the attention he gets from the coach on the ice with the skaters.
I've been thinking about bilateral movement ever since I noticed this boy in learn-to-skate using his right side while his left side kind of limps along behind. According to this document, bilateral movement is is the ability to execute movements on both sides of the body, clockwise and counterclockwise, forward and backward.
Here's what I want to show you, to point out to you, in case you haven't thought about this. His mother gave me permission to tape this for my blog. Watch how he is moving his right side purposefully, and most of the time, his left side simply comes along for the ride, not actively participating. He amazes me that he's able to compensate for the super-strong right side, probably using his vision, to keep himself from traveling in circles. Do you see it, too? Look at how hard he works! And he's got to learn to feel, to use that left side:
He takes a few steps where he's intentionally moving that left side, but not many - there's quite a contrast between the two. The occupational therapist at school has not noticed this yet. And the more we watch him on the ice, we see why he is not yet skating like the other children in his class. He's mostly using just one side.
Is your child with autism or sensory processing disorder using both sides of his/her body to his/her full advantage? Or is one side limping along? I'm watching my own girl more closely, now.
One of my soap boxes: I don't think that we parents and professionals notice stuff like this often enough. We fail to recognize how hard a child must work in order to maintain posture, to walk across the room, to write with a pencil, to cut with scissors, to do all the things we take for granted when our neurology is not challenged. This little boy falls on the ice on purpose and he usually asks his mom for a bathroom break or two. I suspect he may be working a lot harder than most of the other kids on the ice and he needs the little break. (I could be wrong.)
In kids with autism, I sometimes see kids acting out, and labeled a behavior problem or non-compliant or trying to escape a task when, in fact, they do not have their neurology working for them. And professionals and school staff tend to lump all of that under an umbrella of "autism" instead of addressing this bilateral movement issue as a separate piece by viewing behavior through a lens that understands the difficulties involved when a child's neurology is not working the way a typical child's is.
Food for thought.
Friday, October 22, 2010
We use an autism intervention called Relationship Development Intervention, or RDI®, which we found after trying aba for over three years, coupled with a year of Floortime the last year of aba.
Behavioral and developmental approaches are quite different from one another, and we, like many others I know, began with a behavioral intervention before switching to a developmental approach. This post is not so much about RDI® as it is about developmental approaches to autism remediation. (RDI® is not the only developmental approach. It is one of my top two favorites, and it happens to be our intervention of choice.)
I have been lurking on an an internet thread about whether or not RDI® is stressful for parents.
My answer, yes and no.
A significant amount of stress (IMHO) comes from the fact that in autism, the child has little-to-no shared attention with family members.
In the early days of RDI®, even after three + years of aba and a year of Floortime, I had to have my mommy radar at high alert 24/7. The "radar" is a mother's double joint-attention, my own, and my child's, too. The "radar" works because we, the parent, assume responsibility for the child, too. I can remember hanging on to my daughter's wrist to keep her near me, or she would bolt while we were running errands. You know what I'm talking about: We do OUR part of the interaction, and the CHILD's part, too. Holding BOTH sides of the responsibility ALL THE TIME is a heavy weight.
To borrow from another wonderful developmentalist, I love the title of Dr James D MacDonald's intervention, Communicating Partners. When the child is not a competent communicating partner, stress increases.
RDI® (and Communicating Partners, for that matter) requires the parent to make big changes, focusing on self, as opposed to trying to change the child. By changing the way the parent interacts, the child is given opportunities to interact differently, unprompted, without a goal of "getting" something from the child, and over time, those changes in interaction add up to growth in a number of areas of development.
Shifting to a relationship perspective and changing myself was stressful. It meant that I had to look at limits and boundaries, address them in ways that I had not been. It meant knowing, developmentally, where my child IS, and targeting interaction at that level. (Dr MacDonald's ARM is a nice resource for that, if you're wondering.)
It meant slowing down, shutting up, offering opportunities, resisting the urge to prompt my child in order to get a response from her (which rewarded me). It meant not using prompts that I used to transition my child - boyohboy, did I become aware of learned helplessness that I'd created with those prompts! She'd become the child who didn't have to pay attention to anything because mom did that for her. I had to look at the reasoning behind all the prompting, and when I did, it made no sense, yet it "worked" to get us through our days. I knew I didn't want to do the prompting long-term, yet I had no action plan on how to get us to new places.
It also meant not following her lead all the time. I did not need more experience following her lead. I was already good at that. She didn't need more experience leading me. She was already good at that. One-sided allowing her to lead while I followed does not = a "communicating partner".
Sometimes, I clearly knew what NOT to do, which left me wondering what TO do, instead, in really specific situations. That was stressful. I wished for a little consultant fairy on my shoulder all the time to help me through specific situations (situations that usually happened because of that immature shared attention, where I'd ask myself, "how do I 'get' her to do this?" and I was back to square one about performing, prompts, and rewards.).
Understanding how development plays out, educating myself on stages and knowing what to set aside for later (what Dr Ross Greene calls "Plan C" in collaborative problem solving) could fall into the "stressful" category.
Another significant factor in parent stress as we made a switch to a developmental model is a big move away from the mindset that we always needed to appear to be getting something from the child, performing some sort of odd side-show with them. Not only did I discount the value of simply "being with" my daughter, I completely poo-poo'ed it and shoved the idea aside. Even when we switched to a developmental mode, finding value in "being with" was a challenge for me.
"Being with" is not prompting; it is not following the child's lead. It's not leading the child. It's being in the same room, comfortable together, with no one leading or controlling.
I always felt that if someone peeked in at me, I needed to look like I was doing something with her. That belief put pressure and stress on me to be performing a lot. And development is not about performing.
Settling in with a developmental approach was stressful. Probably more so because of all the behavioral stuff I had to undo in me.
I'm not sure what formal RDI® stage we're in at this point. I can tell you that my daughter's joint attention, coordination, co-regulation, "we-go" has progressed to a point where she holds more of her own, and the stress level has decreased dramatically. For years, I listened to Dr. Gutstein explain the inter-relationship between joint attention, co-regulation, coordination, experience sharing, etc, and I thought I understood what he was saying. Now that I'm seeing all of those "core deficits" inter-relating in front of me in a child who was so delayed, I see and sense the inter-relationships between the developmental pieces more clearly.
A recent realization for me: Getting to a developmental point where the child can share attention on something invisible, a thought, a moment we shared in the past, a concept, and where the child can mentally join and coordinate himself with those "invisibles" = decreased stress for everyone.
Takes time and experience to get there. Times of illness have the stress meter rising. The "autism" is more prominent during periods of dysregulation caused by illness.
The bottom line: Trust development. (Easier said than done.)
easy gluten-free ($15.95) gives us a good cross-section of recipes for every meal, that include entrees, side dishes, snacks, dessert. There are fancy dishes, there are comfort foods, there are recipes that look long and complicated, and some that are short and simple. It's a good mix.
The table of contents is HERE.
Chapter 1, "I Have to Eat Gluten-Free. Now What?" is HERE.
No, some of the recipes aren't casein (milk) free, nut free, egg free, allergen free, although some recipes contain substitutions suggestions. There are quite a few that are allergen free. My GFCFSFer daughter looked through the book last night, unusual for her, and called to me in the next room to tell me about different recipes. She wants to make Mexican Pizza and baked onion rings, among other things.
For individuals who must rotate grains, there are recipes that use some of the more "unusual" grains, like quinoa, teff, and amaranth.
The negatives for me: There are no photos inside. The paperback is floppy and you'll need something to weight it down or hold open the pages as you cook from it. And here's a big pet peeve of mine: The URLs mentioned in chapter one are too difficult to find. No one wants to type two lines of characters to find an internet reference. I wound up going to the blog site and searching on key words rather than trying to type that too-long list of characters. Here's one example (which I went to the trouble to find and cut and paste for you - what a pain to type!): http://www.diet.com/dietblogs/read_blog.php?title=Labeling+of+USDA-Regulated+Foods&blid=17330 I looked for a shorter perma-link and could not locate one. Establishing a new blog via blogger to hold those posts for simple perma-links would have been easy to do.
I like this book. It's a good starter book for a newbie; it's a good book for anyone who might be entertaining and cooking for frends with gluten intolerance.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Jossey-Bass, an Imprint of Wiley, offers these "activity-a-day" books in a variety of topics. The most recent edition is The Science Teacher's ACTIVITY-A-DAY by Pam Walker and Elaine Wood. The title and book cover say it all -there are "over 180 reproducible pages of quick, fun projects that illustrate basic concepts" inside that fit into what Jossey-Bass describes as "5-minute fundamentals".
I see quite a few uses for this book, from public school settings, and especially homeschool and co-op settings, with "gen-ed" students and students with special needs alike.
My homeschooler has a shorter attention span than a lot of 11-year-olds, and she learns more when she is active and doing. We don't sit around and do a lot of seat-work and worksheets at my house; my student does not learn that way. This book gives me short, simple hands-on activities and experiments to do with my kid that illustrate a concept in a fun way, that lead to more questions, more learning, more interaction, which for a kidlet on the autism spectrum, is exactly what we want! I can pick and choose activities based on interest at my house, based on what fits into our current studies, and based on difficulty. We'll get new vocab and can photograph and write about what we did and what we learned together, too, and get a language arts piece in the back door.
We need simple. These activities can be simple for us. Some situations don't require simple. A teacher can add as much information and complexity as appropriate for the student, or use the activities to enhance and illustrate existing curriculum.
A lot of the activities use items we have around the house or items that are easy to obtain.
The book is geared for students in grades 5-10, although there are activities you can use with younger children, in my opinion.
*FYI: There are sections about evolution in this book.* Some families teach it; some don't. There are plenty of non-evolution-related activities in the book to keep us busy.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I have always liked recipes that began with a mix, where you add ingredients and get something special. (I have a coconut cake recipe that people believe is from scratch, and it begins with a mix. That's one that I haven't succeeded in making gluten free -- yet -- although I have tried.)
I was disappointed to see that there are only SEVEN gluten free recipes in the bonus section of the cookbook; HOWEVER, as I scan the gluten-filled recipes, I see many opportunities to substitute a gluten-free mix. If you are a veteran at gluten-free baking, I suspect you'll see the opportunities, too.
My guess is that the gluten-free recipes are especially for someone who is new to GF baking, or for, perhaps someone completely unfamiliar with it, who is baking a sweet for a GF friend.
If you are baking casein (milk) free, nut free, egg free, or other allergen-free, you'll have to know how to make substitutions, because this particular cookbook does not offer those substitutions.
The photos in the cookbook are beautiful; the presentations of finished recipes are pretty, yet simple enough that I believe I can duplicate them at home. As I look at the cookbook for ideas I can use in GFCFSF baking, I see some neat desserts in the gluten-filled section that I can copy with substitutions for my GFCFSF girl. I love new ideas! I can't believe I'm going to type this, but here goes: the entire cookbook has helped me think outside the box. I'm so afraid to experiment with gluten-free mixes, afraid the experiment will be a gummy flop, that sometimes I don't try. Comparing the gluten-free recipes with the gluten-filled recipes is interesting - there are so many similarities - my confidence is growing and I'll be trying some substitutions.
Some recipes call for canned frosting, so if you're like me, avoiding soy and milk, you'll have to make a homemade frosting, which adds to the prep time, although icing is not difficult to make (and I prefer homemade over canned).
Priced at $19.95, the pages in this cookbook are spiral bound within a sturdy hardcover. It lies flat on my counter and the cookbook stays open to the recipe I'm using without my having to weight it down.
I am craving the pumpkin spice cupcakes right now. I think I have all of the ingredients for them, too.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
2 Days Only! Snag our StoryBuilders Christmas Mini-Builder for just ONE DOLLAR! Yep, it's 75% off through Oct. 20! This e-book of writing prompt cards is a fun way to get your kids excited about writing during the holidays!
Friday, October 15, 2010
Individuals with autism are thought to have little or no emotion. I'm not sure why. I believe it's a myth. Individuals on the autism spectrum experience and show emotion.
Today, at our Disney on Ice princesses event, my girl reminded me a lot of ME. When Snow White ate the poisoned apple and fell into a deep sleep, my girl began to cry. When Prince Charming kissed her and she woke, my girl reached into our lunchbox for a napkin and used it to mop the tears from her eyes and face.