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.

Snapping Green Beans is RDIable

When we switched to a developmental, relationship based autism intervention, I struggled to grasp concepts and implement them into daily routines. I watched a yahoo list (which no longer exists) where parents described activities. I tried to wrap my mind around the concepts while feeling unsure about what I was supposed to do.

Looking back, I realize that giving my daughter many experiences to be competent with me in very simple reciprocity and interaction, back-and-forth, turn-taking, at non-verbal levels, was key, and often, I was trying to focus over her head, developmentally speaking.

When you "program" a child for a skill without the developmentally appropriate relationship goal, you are shortchanging the child. The focus becomes "getting" the child to perform the skill instead of *giving* the child practice and experience that he/she needs. (Schools tend to shortchange children with autism, in my experience, by ignoring the developmentally appropriate relationship piece.)

When you focus on developmentally appropriate objectives within the context of an activity, you're giving the child a "two-fer" (two-for-the-price-of-one) experience.

There's a big difference between "getting" a child to do something and *giving* him/her an experience, both in the approach (delivery) and the outcome.

Yesterday, while I was preparing our Thanksgiving meal, I began to snap the ends from some fresh green beans. My girl joined me with interest, asking what, exactly, was I doing, and could she help me?

As I explained how we snap the pointy ends from the green beans before we cook them and I showed her how to snap the ends off, I gave thanks for the experiences she'd had in the past that allowed her to join me, to want to join me. My appreciation grew for child development and the marvel it is when it happens naturally, and I thought about how challenging it is for a child (and his/her parent) whose development falls off track. And I thought about the many RDIable objectives that could be experienced and practice using the simple background activity of snapping green beans.

Here are a few of them:

Being with (and limits and boundaries) - Mom snaps green beans while child stays nearby. It's an early step in sharing attention, joint attention, theory of mind - and too often, we skip this step in order to "get" something from a child. Don't discount the importance of simply "being with" in terms of making yourself a safe and trustworthy guide and , to borrow from Dr James D MacDonald, a Communicating Partner for your child.

Simultaneous parallel co-regulating roles - Both of you snap green beans together, performing the same roles at the same time

Coordinating roles - Mom snaps green beans, hands them to child to sort, ends in trash, beans in bowl. We can reverse coordinating roles, here, too, if you're working on that kind of objective

Copying Mom's actions with meaning and context - Much more, much richer than simply, "gross motor imitation", Little Bit had to watch me carefully to figure out how to snap the ends off the green beans. She wasn't holding the end tightly enough at first, and once I showed her how to pinch the end more tightly, she was quickly snapping beans with ease.

Experiencing the concept of "good enough" AND monitoring Mom for "good enough" - there's not an exact, right way to snap green beans - they're not all exactly the same length when we finish - we aim for "good enough". Sometimes, we snap off more than we intend - and that's okay, too. We're flexible. For the child, monitoring Mom's face and actions for clarity that you're actions are within the "good enough" range is important to practice and experience.

Variations are natural here. Snapping beans isn't rote. Sometimes, you find a stem or leaf. That goes in the trash. Sometimes, a bean is too small. That goes in the trash. Little Bit came across one that she said had already been chewed. It was broken at one end, already. We snapped a little bit off, threw the waste in the trash pile, and moved on to the next bean. There's more flexibility to experience.

Experiencing mistakes. Both of us messed up a few times, throwing the snapped ends into the bowl of good beans and the good bean into the trash. Oops! This was a fun opportunity to notice a breakdown in our little system, to laugh at ourselves, and make a repair.

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. If you think of more, please add them to the comments section.

Snapping green beans together wasn't about teaching Little Bit the "life skill" of snapping green beans. Snapping green beans became the background activity to some relationship practice and experience, and the bonus is the fact that she learned a new skill. Snapping green beans is a "two-fer". I got a big reminder (again) yesterday that finding the right game or activity isn't as important as figuring out how to use activities already in our days to couple with the right developmental objective as we give our children practice and experiences that move them forward.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Have you ever seen a decorative jar filled with different layers of dried beans and grains? There's a layer of red beans, a layer of white, maybe a layer of lentils or green peas, a layer of corn, etc.

That's how I feel right now after eating Thanksgiving dinner midday with leftovers for supper.

I've got a layer of turkey at the bottom, mashed potatoes, then sweet the top is the chocolate pudding tart...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Preview

I managed to get some GFCFSF+++ baking accomplished today.
Cornbread mix came from Gluten Free Pantry (purchased on sale at Whole Foods Market last week)
Cornbread stick pan from a secret friend
Pumpkin Bread converted from my aunt's recipe
Chocolate Pudding Tart from Cybele Pascal's baking cookbook
Here's a photo preview:

"Simply covering material is not teaching...."

From Edutopia's facebook status today:

"Simply covering material is not teaching; it's checking off a list. If we focus more on getting through the curriculum than on creating meaningful and enriching educational experiences, we forget such vital parts of our job, such as checking for understanding, re-teaching, and reviewing, " blogger Rebecca Alber.

Read the entire blog entry HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sleep and Autism, Sensory Processing, ADHD, and Children

Children with autism, sensory processing disorder, adhd are sometimes very poor sleepers. They have trouble falling asleep. They don't always stay asleep. My child with autism didn't sleep through the night for five very long years, and sometimes, she still goes through periods where she has trouble sleeping. Even typically developing children can be poor sleepers.

Sleep is a big topic on groups of parents who have children with special needs. Here, in one very long blog post, are all the notes that I have taken over the years at conferences and workshops on factors that can impact sleep. I'm not the expert; I'm merely passing along the notes I've taken from professionals familiar with sleep problems.

Sleep is important to all of us. A lot of families I know use a prescription drug or OTC melatonin to help children sleep. I am bothered by this when doctors, professionals, and parents use a drug or supplement first without ruling out causes to sleep challenges first. I am even more bothered by behaviorists who view sleep troubles as "manipulation" on the part of children.

Here are some things I've been told about sleep and autism, things that are worth considering, researching, assessing for risk in your own situation with your own doctor or professional. (I am not a doctor. None of this is medical advice or professional advice of any sort. Do your own research, talk with your own doctor, make your own decisions about what you are comfortable trying with professional supervision.)

For some poor sleepers, there is not one single cause; there are multiple causes, and trying one intervention without trying a combination of interventions may be necessary. There are multiple puzzle pieces at play in some of our kids.

I have attended more autism conferences than I can count. In biomedical tracks, doctors report that milk is a big culprit in sleep issues; so is gluten. No, we don't have the science to prove it, so if you are one of those parents who wants double blind placebo studies, we don't have those. We have thousands of anecdotal reports from parents. I know many parents who told me a child began sleeping better immediately (within three days) with the complete removal of all milk products (casein). A lot of children begin to immediately sleep better on the GFCF diet. (A nutritionist can help you make sure your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals when you try the GFCF diet by analyzing a food journal. I used the services of a nutritionist at our local health department to analyze my daughter's diet after we put her on the GFCF diet.)

Soy and other foods can affect sleep, too, including dyes and preservatives (research Feingold diet). One book with a lot of information that may be helpful as you research is Doris Rapp MD's, "Is This Your Child?" Another is Kelly Dorfman's, "Cure Your Child With Food?" Here is an article by Kelly Dorfman about sleep.

A Michigan holistic MD, Rick Ng, told parents at a biomed support group meeting to make sure we get our kids out at noontime and "march 'em around in the sunlight" and to allow our homes to darken with the day, using as little artificial lighting as possible at nighttime, to allow the body to use natural sources of light and dark to set wake and sleep cycles. He told us to avoid or minimize TV, video games, computer, etc, at night, as the flickering light can fool the body into thinking it's day (and awake) time.

Some children experience burning acid reflux when they lie down and try to sleep. They are unable to tell us about the pain and burning that keeps them from falling asleep and staying asleep. For some children, reducing reflux through some dietary changes is enough to solve the problem, although you usually need some lab testing for food sensitivities to accomplish this. Find a doctor who can help rule it out or diagnose properly and treat, if needed. Don't try treatments on your own.

Yeast in the gut can contribute to sleep difficulties, and one symptom of yeast that I hear about again and again is laughter and giggling during waking in the middle of the night. Yeah, I thought it sounded crazy, too, but a) many parents report the connection and b) it makes sense to rule out yeast out as a possible factor in sleep problems when you think about the reasoning behind it. Kelly Dorfman is one of many professionals whom I've heard talk about this issue that affects sleep. Find a doctor who can help rule it out or diagnose properly and treat, if needed. Don't try treatments on your own.

Tooth pain (cavity, cutting new teeth, loose tooth), sinus and head pain, throat pain (sometimes caused by reflux; sometimes by allergies and post nasal drip; sometimes by a virus) can keep a child from sleeping. So can ear pain caused by the pressure of fluid in the ears or infection. Find a doctor who can help rule it out or diagnose properly and treat, if needed. Don't try treatments on your own.

Many parents believe that epsom salts baths just before bedtime are helpful. Research first; get your doctor's okay. Magnesium can affect the heart; that's why you want to include the doctor in this decision. Susan Owens and Rosemary Waring are two names to begin your research. (Don't try epsom salts baths without researching them and clearing es baths with your doctor(s). I am not a doctor; this is not medical advice. Find a doctor who can help diagnose properly and treat, if needed. Don't try treatments on your own.)

Vanderbilt is studying low iron levels and how that relates to sleep. You might ask the pediatrician to check your child's iron levels.

SCREENS are an issue with sleep. Read more HERE.

SENSORY: A couple of years ago, I attended a two-day HANDLE Program training. I was completely new to this program, and I have to admit, I learned a lot of new ideas. Having done sensory integration therapy with a child on the autism spectrum for going on 8 years, I thought I was pretty "up to speed" as a mom. But HANDLE gave me a perspective I had not considered, and we have begun to introduce a couple of the activities, and am considering an assessment by a HANDLE professional.

We spent two days studying the neurology of the senses. I can't remember when I've looked at drawings of the brain that much! An emphasis on proper nutrition and dietary contributions to behavior was included in the presentation. Very biomed/MAPs! friendly. A neurodevelomental perspective, too.

During my two-day HANDLE training, I learned that one sensory related issue may be related to another sensory issue. For example, I've heard that when a person loses his sight, his hearing becomes more keen. In autism, when children are not using their eyes/vision to the fullest, then their hearing can become more sensitive. (we know our children are often not gathering non-verbal info from their vision-they aren't using their vision in a way that NT individuals do) However, individuals on the autism spectrum may use their eyes as a substitute for another SENSE.

A child with one underdeveloped sense, oh, say, proprioception, may indeed have an overdeveloped sense of hearing. Falling asleep may be challenging to a person who hears things that the rest of us tune out.

Individuals with asd often have little to no sense of proprioception, no sense of where they are in space, and they compensate for that lack of proprioception by using their vision to tell them where they are in space. One evidence of this idea is that sometimes our asd children have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, because when they close their eyes, they're shutting off their most relied upon sense as a substitute for a lack of proprioception. In other words, when they shut their eyes, they lose the sense ofwhere they are. The issue is a problem with integration.

Many families report that their kids on the autism spectrum will fall asleep as long as Mom or Dad lies down with them as they fall asleep. Many report that when their children awake in the middle of the night, they aren't able to fall asleep alone - they need to be next to someone.

If you don't know where you are in space (proprioception) and you use your vision to tell you where you are, it makes sense that when you shut your eyes to try to fall asleep, you would need some sort of reference point to tell you where you are. Mom or Dad make a good reference point as you doze off to sleep. "I think; therefore I am." becomes, "I feel myself next to Mom or Dad when my eyes are shut; therefore I am...and I am able to fall asleep."

Thomas McKean, author of "Soon Will Come The Light", told us during a presentation that he sleeps surrounded by teddy bears, so that when he wakes in the night, he can press his back into one. I didn't understand that idea until the HANDLE two-day intro, but it makes sense that the teddy bears tell him where he is. Some families swear by expensive weighted sensory blankets at bedtime - now I know why they work. There are a lot of ideas that I would not try with a toddler or young child - we didn't introduce pillows until our kids were older. A body pillow to wrap arms around and/or a heavy all cotton blanket or quilt (watch the clearance aisles at Marshalls and TJMaxx) may be enough if for an older child who is waking and not knowing where he is in space when his eyes are closed. (There are always safety considerations to think about: Ask your pediatrician if your child is old enough for pillows - I am not a doctor and do not play one on my blog. Do your own research and make decisions based on your specific situation.) I know of some parents who swear by a fun tent that is made for a twin bed; their kids w/ autism began sleeping better in a tent. (I'm not sure about flame retardant chemicals in the tents; I chose not to try a tent at my house.) I know one child who began to sleep though the night when he inherited a bunk bed and he began sleeping in the bottom bunk. I suspect that the closed-in space provided by the tent or top bunk helps these individuals know where they are.

A HANDLE practitioner can assess your child and offer activities to help with sensory integration. We learned at the HANDLE two-day that some folks use another sense to help kids know where they are in space when they shut their eyes. A small lamp or nightlight is one way (although there are studies that show that lighting at bedtime is not healthy). Soft music is one way. A noise machine or fan for white noise is another. At our HANDLE two-day, use of scent was suggested (lavender). I've never tried scent (I don't like to smell scents when I'm sleeping). There are always safety considerations to think about: If your child likes to play with cords, you'll have to find battery operated options. If your child is a climber, then bunk beds and tents would be out, in my opinion. Very young children don't get pillows. Do your research, assess risks, keep safety in the forefront, have your doctor help you make decisions.

Judith Bluestone also recommends natural fabrics. She saw big differences in clients with the removal of carpeting from a home. Check the child's bedding; make sure it's natural. Cotton feels good. Poly and fleece may be itchy to some individuals.

I highly recommend Judith Bluestone's book, "The Fabric of Autism", even if your child has some diagnosis other than autism. She explains sensory neurology better than anyone I've seen or read.

NEW: Bill Nason's post about sleep is here.

NEW: Dr Beth Malow, a neurologist, has a webinar about sleep online here:
Learn about sleep studies and more with Dr Malow. Always rule out the medical causes first.

NEW: A Special Needs Guide to Bedtime by Karen Wang

NEWSleep Tip: Red Lights


And if you have any tips or hints to share about helping your children on the autism spectrum fall asleep and stay asleep, please share them in the comments section.

I am not a doctor; I do not play one on this blog. Do your own research into all the safety aspects, consult with your pediatrician, your autism specialists, before you even consider one of the ideas. Find a doctor who can help diagnose properly and treat, if needed. Don't try treatments on your own.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pedro's Whale

Autism and inclusion expert Paula Kluth, with Patrick Schwarz and illustrator Justin Canha bring us an important book for children, Pedro's Whale. Pedro is a little boy on the autism spectrum who has a special interest in whales. I identify with Pedro; I love cetaceans, too. (I was a docent on whale watch boats during several whale watch seasons when we lived on the West Coast.)

Pedro's Whale is a wonderful story that helps children and adults understand the extreme attachment to a special interest that are common in individuals on the autism spectrum. The story helps readers understand ways in which we can all use those interests as a bridge to relationships and learning.

The illustations are really nice. Illustrator Justin Canha is a young man on the autism spectrum, and he does a beautiful job putting pictures to the story.

Pedro's Whale is based on a true story.

I attended a day-long workshop with Paula Kluth a couple of years ago; she mentioned a new book was about to be published, called, Just Give Him The Whale! I haven't read that book, but Kluth gave us some background during the conference. Apparently, at the beginning of a new school year, Pedro's teacher thought he was too big to carry a toy whale all day long and she would not let him have it. His affect and behavior changed drastically, and Kluth was called in to help with the situation. When she learned that his toy had been banned, his safety net, her answer was, simply, "Just Give Him The Whale!" And Kluth and Schwarz wrote a book for teachers (and parents and homeschooling families) about using those fascinations and special interests in education and relationships.

Pedro's Whale is the version for children, complete with a page of suggestions and hints for how to use the book with groups of children. It's a 26 page hardback book with a simple story that 'normalizes' special interests for typical children, a story that gives important insight and perspective taking about autism and special interests to typical peers in group (school, co-op, Sunday School, camp etc) settings. List price is $18.95.

Brookes Publishing sent me a copy of Pedro's Whale for review purposes. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You, Your Child, and "Special" Education, A Guide to Dealing With the System

Brookes Publishing gives us a new book about dealing with the system of special education: You, Your Child, and "Special" Education by Barbara Coyne Cutler with Sue Pratt.

A 294 page paperback, list priced at $25.95, You, Your Child, and "Special" Education is a revised edition of a previously published book.

I wish I'd had this when my homeschooler was in school. Authors Cutler and Pratt explain the child's rights, the parents' rights, some legal direction in keeping up with IDEA, info on writing an effective IEP, and offer guidance, direction, and advice on navigating the sometimes difficult emotional piece. Cutler and Pratt deal with relationships with teachers and school staff, too.

Primarily focused on public schoolers and special education, for homeschoolers, I found this on
page 186 , "A home schooled child is also entitled to related services."

If you are new to special education, I think you'll appreciate this book. Parents already on the pathway may find it useful, too.

Brookes Publishing sent me a review copy of You, Your Child, and "Special" Education, A Guide to Dealing with the System to review here on my blog. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Reaching Boys Teaching Boys, Strategies That Work--And Why

Sometimes, I get a surprise in the mail, a book I did not know was coming. Here's one of them: Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys by Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley.

One of my facebook friends is an educator in Pennsylvania who told me that a lot of our classroom education focuses on the way females tend to learn. I agree with her to a point. My experience is that a lot of classroom education focuses on the way teachers tended to have been taught, how teachers tend to learn. If you are a student who learns that way, you score high marks in school and are considered successful. If you need more project based learning, movement, learning in context, hands on, NOT sitting at a desk taking notes during a lecture, then students risk being considered a less-than learner and often are labeled lazy or a behavior problem. I really like this quote from page 230 of Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys, "Teachers who reflexively attribute all off-task behavior to attention deficits or behavioral problems may miss important signalsabout the effectiveness of any given lesson."

Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys offers readers evidence, anecdotes, strategies, activities that work with those kids, often boys, but not always, need something outside the "teacher as lecturer, deliverer of information" box.

I suspect that a lot of my blog readers who are parents and teachers to students (boys and girls) with unique learning needs will identify with a lot of the stories in this book and will gain insight and ideas from it. There are so many important points in the book that I can use with my girl - a lot of information, I already use and incorporate (Chapter 4, Motor Activity, for example; or Chapter 3, Lessons as Games). Some, know about and need to incoroporate more deliberately (Chapter 5, Role Play and Performance). Some of the lessons, we're on the path toward (Chapter 7, Teamwork and Competetion; Chapter 8, Personal Realization; Chapter 9, Novelty, Drama, and Surprise).

I like the emphasis on the importance of relationships in teaching students.

Rather than copy the TOC, I'll point you to it, HERE. Chapter 1 is available HERE. Reaching Boys, Teaching boys is a 264 page paperback list priced at $29.95.

Jossey-Bass, an Imprint of Wiley, sent me a copy of Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys by Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley so that I could have a copy to review. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Teaching Girls About Menstruation

A popular topic in circles of parents of girls with disabilities, particularly developmental disabilities, is menstruation. There are many parents who are raising little girls whose bodies are going to start having monthly periods whether comprehension and cognition has caught up or not. Can you imagine teaching a toddler how to self-care during a menstrual period??? Yes, it happens to young women whose bodies outgrew the rest of their development.

How on earth does a mom or teacher go about that? I'd rather avoid the whole subject, but that's not reality, is it?

One answer is to go about it the same way that moms of typically developing young ladies go about it. And I stumbled across a company that helps moms teach and show their daughters about a menstrual period, before and during it.

I learned about Dot Girls in a Kotex ad. I spent some time browsing the Dot Girls web site. Sisters Terri Goodwin and Kathy Pickus founded Dot Girls to help us parents out, to provide information and supplies for explaining and handling a first period. They have developed a neat little Dot Girl First Period Kit® and offer a little paperback by JoAnn Loulan and Bonnie Worthen, PERIOD. A Girl's Guide ($9.99 / 76 pages) for this very purpose.

I have purchased several books for and about girls entering adolescence. My homeschooler, a daughter who happens to be on the autism spectrum who is a pre-teen, happens to have a big sister who is a teenager, and as I look through the books I purchased for my older daughter, I'm not sure they're developmentally appropriate for my younger daughter who has developmental delays. The book Dot Girls sells intrigued me enough to contact them about the book and the kit. Kathy told me they hadn't thought about the community of users with developmental delays. (I wouldn't have had I not been in this situation.) They were happy to send me a book and a kit (although I had to wait for the new kit to come out in August).

PERIOD. A Girl's Guide is written to offer the facts about menstruation without discussing sex. Yes, it offers sketches of body parts. Yes, it discusses feelings, mood swings, body changes. Yes, it is aimed at typically developing girls, and yes, I will have to figure out as I go along where my daughter's understanding lies and where I have to add to or modify information. It is an excellent starting place (in my opinion) compared to the other books I've seen. For a young woman who is developmentally delayed academically, it is quite wordy and if your daughter is like mine, you may have to make some modifications to the text, rewrite it to simplify concepts, but it's one I feel comfortable handing to my daughter to look at, because it doesn't discuss sex ed (because I don't think she's ready for that, yet). It's excellent for my typically developing daughter, too (she has a few other books; she's ready for other content that she and I can discuss together).

The Dot Girls First Period Kit® ($19.99) is a perfect introduction to some of the products we girls use. It arrived swathed in beautiful pink tissue paper; I love that. Let's wrap all the menstruation stuff in a package that is a beautiful present! Dot Girls certainly helps mom create a positive atmosphere when talking about menstruation.

We received the pink pouch. It is so pretty and inviting; my homeschooler (on the autism spectrum) was interested in opening it to see what was inside, and the kit and the little booklet inside provided the perfect context to talk more with her about how her body is changing and that, at some point, she will begin to menstruate, and when she does, she'll use products like these. There are a few pads, a little heating pad (okay, it's really small), some wipes, some bags for disposing used pads.

We've been talking about periods more (on and off) for the past couple of months, since my book and later, my kit arrived. The kit has been an incredible visual, hands-on, in-context tool for us, and we get it out every so often and remove the items and put them back into the pouch and talk about them. She asks more questions each time. Having the kit gives us opportunities to discuss it over time, allowing her processing time that she needs. I'd brought up the subject before learning about Dot Girls, and I attempted to begin to explain a period, and found it challenging with a child who is often more like an early elementary schoolage girl than a preteen. She's going to bloom into a young woman whether her academics are caught up or not.

Recently, I started my period unexpectedly and headed to the bathroom in a hurry. Little Bit wanted to know why, and I told her, I think I started my period. And she got her kit for me, told me I could use some of her pads if I wanted. ;) How sweet!

Thank you, Dot Girls, for the absolutely wonderful and pretty tool, the kit, and the information, the book, to help me introduce periods to my girl who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Having all of the resources in one pretty package is so much better than a big ol' package of pads. You've given us a friendly resource that we continue to revisit together as my girl gets closer to adolescence.

Dot Girls has a facebook page here.

I received a Dot Girl First Period Kit® and a copy of PERIOD. A Girl's Guide at no cost to me so that I could review them here, on my blog. I received no money for this review and am not obligated to write a positive review.

Sweet Potato Casserole

If you're looking for a Thanksgiving dinner recipe for mashed sweet potatoes, what some folks refer to as sweet potato casserole or crustless sweet potato pie, here's mine:

KB Teachers; a TOS Crew Review

KB Teachers is a web site that offers printable worksheets and worksheet generators for parents and professionals who work with/teach children.

We don't usually review a product that is a work in progress, but this time, we are. The KB Teachers folks are improving and adding content as I type, with more to come, which means the site will get even better.

Priced at $29 a year, or $49 for two years, subscribers have quick access to developmentally appropriate materials. KB Teachers resources cover all academic content areas and give the subscriber access to fun motifs that allow you to tailor worksheets for your younger children to their interests. (A lot of children on the autism spectrum like dinosaurs; KB Teachers gives you dinasaurs!)

KB Teachers is a big time saver for me, and it helps keep me on track with lesson planning. I know that there are lots of free worksheets on the internet. Using a search engine and sorting through the web sites to find ones we can use or that fit our unit study topic can be a big time waster. Often those searches take you to blogs of other homeschoolers who share materials they created for free. Usually those blogs are new to me and I spend a little time skimming them - when I really don't have the time. Having KB Teachers available means I go to ONE web site, generate the math or money worksheet or a seasonal activity, print what I need, and I'm done. No rabbit trails.

Here's why I really like KB Teachers: I homeschool a child who has big ups and downs. Some days are wonderful, her neurology is working for her, and we get a lot done. Some days, like today as I write his review, her nose is running like faucet, she's got the "sneezles", and her attention and frustration tolerance are much shorter. Days like today, she tends to balk at anything that looks like schoolwork, yet, she'll join me in something that looks "fun" to her. Today is a day that I can head over to KB Teachers and quickly print a maze or a few fun activity sheets. No crazy internet searches that take too much time. One web site, a little looking around for the right thing, print, done. I have had no problems choosing and printing worksheets.

Copywork that I find in unit studies is often not formatted in a way that we can best use it. I do like the handwriting generator that allows me to tak a quote from an existing page of copywork, enter it in order to reformat a quote or passage, putting fewer phrases or sentences on a page.

I also appreciate the e-mail updates from KB Teachers that let me know when new content, especially seasonal content, is added for me to use.

Additional costs: Subscribers will need a printer, toner, copy paper, and perhaps card stock.

Bottom line: I like KB Teachers because of the convenience and the time saving it gives me in our situation. I suspect it'll save me money in the long run; I am not as attracted to all the new workbooks at the warehouse club knowing I can find or generate a worksheet quickly. (Sorting through workbooks for the just-right activity can be frustrating and time consuming, too.)

KB Teachers has materials for older children; I did not use any of them (we're not ready for them at my house), but others on the Crew did. To read other Crew reviews about KB Teachers, go HERE.

KB Teachers has a facebook page:

KB Teachers gave me a 2-year subscription so that I may use the web site and review it on my blog. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Share The Summit Giveaway

This post is my entry for a chance to win a Kindle.

After watching the trailer for The Summit,
I want to read the book, know the story.

Win a Kindle loaded with The Summit

Share the excitement of the new book,The Summit: Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone! Post the Video Book trailer on facebook, twitter, your blog, etc. Each time you report your post at this link, you will be entered to win a Kindle with The Summit already on it. The winner will be chosen and announced at on November 23rd.


Spotted on facebook:

Tyndale House Publishing has six free e-books available for the next week or so. If you don't own a reader, download the Sony product, free, to your computer and then you may download the free e-books.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Penmanship and the Child Who Wants to Be Perfect

Random tip:

For the child who fears failure, wants to be perfect from the get-go in making letter shapes, numerals, etc, a friend of mine who is an occupational therapist recommends using a little blackboard (chalkboard) and a moist sponge to write letters and shapes. The moisture evaporates quickly and am imperfect letter or numeral is *poof* gone, and the child got experience and practice at the same time.


Tired of building with little plastic blocks and want to add some variety in your play construction projects? Have some candy left over from a holiday that you'd like to use without eating it?

A big challenge for me is finding the "how to" instructions for a food craft. First I have to know what might be out there and start an internet search, succumb to the temptation of a few rabbit trails that take me off topic, and try to find instructions that will guide me in creating something cute and do-able.

Imagine my delight to discover a delightful book that has edible crafts with recipes and instructions all in one place - requiring no internet time. Check out
ANDY CONSTRUCTION, Edible Crafts, by Sharon Bowers ($14.95).

Bowers starts with some basic limit setting that include no eating while building, a limit on one candy to eat when finished, and teeth brushing when done.

I am reading CANDY CONSTRUCTION from the perspective of the mom who wants to make something with a child who can't eat typical candy. I'm looking at instructions and recipes to see what, exactly, I can find in allergen-free form in order to duplicate at my house. Rice cereal treats, pretzels, some gummy candy, Nerds, marshmallows, sandwich cookies, chocolate bars - I see quite a few items I can find an appropriate substitute for. Peanut butter cups and Nutter Butters - no way - I'll have to skip the recipes that use those or figure out a good nut-free substitute.

CANDY CONSTRUCTION offers party ideas based upon quite a few themes (you may choose to plan a party around one of the crafts) and holiday ideas that could use up leftover candy. Bowers uses everyday candies for the folks who aren't on special diets, easy to find, generally. The instructions are easy to follow; the projects, simple, because they're for kids. Some of the figures or parts of crafts could easily become a cake or cupcake topper.

The projects are what I call "RDI-able"; the projects can be used for a variety of Relationship Development Objectives in a fun, "in context" way.

There are other benefits. Having a child on a special diet due to food intolerances and some allergies can make Vacation Bible School, birthday and holiday parties difficult. If *I* don't make it from GFCFSF+++ ingredients, my girl can't enjoy it with the others. Now, I can make something my girl can taste if she wants to.

I'm pleased to add this book to my collection of cookbooks.

Storey Publishing sent me a complimentary, review copy of CANDY CONSTRUCTION Edible Crafts for review purposes. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Monday, November 15, 2010

All I Can Handle, I'm No Mother Teresa

I received my review copy of Kim Stagliano's new book, All I Can Handle, I'm No Mother Teresa a bit later than other blogger/reviewers. The book was worth the wait.

Kim Stagliano writes with candor and humor about her life. Kim and her husband, Mark, are parents to three girls, all three diagnosed with autism. She takes you through the never-a-dull-moment lives of the Staglianos, including the ups and downs of diagnosis and treatment of not only autism but also a seizure disorder, several job losses and moves, a home robbery, a daughter being abused on the school bus.

Stagliano somehow manages to take some weighty events and turn them into entertaining reading, while leaving the reader with a sense of the seriousness of autism without abandoning the fun and joy of parenting children on the spectrum.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, if you know nothing about autism, or if you're somewhere in between, I think you'll like this book.

If you're the parent of a child (or children) on the autism spectrum, you'll relate to Stagliano's story. I blinked back tears, I laughed, I nodded my head in silent understanding of so many details that she describes. (I, like Stagliano, have a daughter on the autism spectrum.)

If you're not the parent of a child with autism, I suspect that your eyes will be opened in a big way. I know that even close family members (who, in my case, live a day's drive away) have no idea some of what we've been through. You'll get a glimpse into a foreign land.

At times, Stagliano's story is that of EveryAutismMom. She gave us the word, "crapisode", the perfect term for what happens when our kids play with poop. She describes the emotion and the thought process that a lot of us went through as we watched a child's development go off track. She describes the challenges of finding services, the heartbreak of learning something late in the game that you should have been told sooner, the excitement that comes with successes.

I admire Kim Stagliano for never, ever losing her sense of humor. (I lost mine more than a few times along the way.)

I highly recommend All I Can Handle to everyone. If you're not familiar with autism, you'll learn a lot from a mom who entertains you while she's explaining the challenges our children face now and in the future.

In addition to her blog, you can find Kim Stagliano at Age of Autism and The Huffington Post.

Thanks, Kim, for being a voice not only for Mia, Gianna, and Bella, but for my daughter, too.
Skyhorse Publishing sent me a review copy of All I Can Handle so that I may read it and review it here on my blog. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

The Autism Sisterhood: A (brief) Manual

Michele Brooke sent me a complimentary to-review copy of The Autism Sisterhood: A (brief) Manual ($9.95). The little paperback (48 pages) is less the "welcome to the club" book that I thought it would be and more of a manual of hints and tips for all autism moms (and dads and family members).

The chapters are short; the you'll probably read it on one sitting. Brooke, a big fan of the outdoors, covers a variety of topics, from science and reading to cooking and playing, plus a few more (including electronics, taking care of yourself, music, shopping, holidays). Brooke manages to pack quite a few topics into this little book.

There was a point in our journey, the first four years (maybe more), where Brooke's advice would have depressed me. Michele Brooke's two boys are diagnosed with high functioning autism. By contrast, I had a child diagnosed with plain ol' autism, who could not join me, could not share attention with me in a way to make some of Boooke's ideas happen at my house. Keeping my daughter with me required a lot of work on my part, and I spent a lot of my time and attention on that. In The Autism Sisterhood, Brooke assumes a higher level of development than my daughter had without explaining how to get to that higher level of development (for us, that meant abandoning aba and switching to a relationship based intervention, which made ALL the difference).

Brooke thinks outside the box in her strategies and she passes along her ideas to the reader. I suspect you'll find an idea or two that you hadn't thought of before. Her ideas require items you already have at home and are easy to implement (provided you have a child who can join you). Brooke's little manual is upbeat and encouraging, to a mom (or dad) new to a diagnosis of HFA.

Michele Brooke sent me a complimentary to-review copy of The Autism Sisterhood: A (brief) Manual ($9.95). I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"We get to do whatEVER we want...right?"

I haven't posted an update in a while, other than to tell you an upper respiratory bug kicked my rear end for several weeks.

While I fell off my lesson plan, the learning did continue. What is interesting to me is when I have little choice to but be quiet and still (I was prone and resting beside my homeschooler quite a bit while I was sick), I wind up giving her the space she needs to ask curious questions. I was limited to how much I could talk without a coughing fit, which had me limiting talk and choosing words carefully, which is just what she needs.

She told me that our Schoolhouse Rock DVD is broken and she asked me for another one. I was happy to provide a new one. I know that the songs from my childhood provide some background and context for my girl and that I would be able to use that background and context for directing some study.

She's been watching the cartoons about the forming of the United States and the Constitution with interest.

She made a comment to me, "We get to do whatEVER we want, right?" I didn't understand. She realized that I did not share her attention in that moment, she saw the breakdown in communication between us, and she repaired the breakdown, with, "We don't have a king or a queen to tell us what to do."

Ah. She's referring to one of the songs from Schoolhouse Rock. *grin*

Well, no, Sweetie, we don't get to do whatever we want. But we do get to help make our own laws. And we're not under the rule of a king or queen any longer.

What kind of laws, Mom?

Well, like red means stop and green means go, Sweetie.

Schoolhouse Rock. What a great conversation starter!

If you want to buy the DVD, either order it online or call around and find a store that has a copy before you go out and try to find one. After looking at a couple of stores that I was *sure* would have one - that did NOT (ugh, disappointing), I came home and made a few phone calls before I finally located one nearby. (Hint: Target had several copies and I paid $13 for the 30th anniversary 2-DVD set.)


1001 tips. I wonder if I began to write down tips how long I would need in order to pen 1001 of them?

Author Tony Lyons (he co-authored Cutting Edge Therapies) has indeed come up with 1001 tips with the help of professionals and other parents.

The 459 page book is priced at $17.95 and contains, literally, one numbered tip after another, arranged in chapters by topic, through tip 1001.

This is a book that, if you're like me, you'll read through once without remembering everything, but knowing you can return to when needed. This book is helpful as you face a new developmental stage or challenge, where you can zoom in on a chapter/topic and read tips from experienced parents and professionals about that topic when needed.

The book begins with Section 1: Pre-Diagnosis; moves to Section 2: Diagnosis and Evaluation, then Section 3: Education. Section 4 offers tips about Therapy Implementation (I had a different experience with ABA than described in Chapter 14 in this section); Section 5 covers Medical Nd Nutritional Treatment. Section 6 covers Supporting the Family Unit to include self care, marriage tips, counseling, sibs, friends, family, help at home. Section 7 overs tips on Daily Life. Section 8 covers parenting. Section 9 covers Personal Care, including puberty and periods. Section 10 offers safety tips. Section 11 covers Venturing Out, including vacations and travel, and as we contemplate our first flight with the children, I'm focusing on this section at the moment. Section 12 covers holidays, very timely, with Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us. Section 13 covers The Future (after the 18th birthday), and Section 14 covers Finances.

1001 Tips for the Parents of Autistic Girls is one that I would purchase. It's a book that I would want to be able to put my hands on and read at the moment I needed it, and not have to wait to get it from the library. Having a copy at home as a reference is handy; I can begin to research advice on my own right away, ask my doctor about medical tips (I always recommend you take medical advice to your doctor!), or I can implement an internet search to find the people who helped with tips, to see what other articles or books they may have written/published.

What's it missing? I don't see homeopathy mentioned; no rec therapy; the section on developmental and relationship therapies, where we've seen absolutely positively the most success, is skimpy, at best (especially compared to the amount of behavioral info in the book) and does not include some of our biggest helps, including Judith Bluestone's HANDLE; reflex integration; Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment; Communicating Partners. I'd like to see some information about sports, too. Figure skating is a wonderful sport for girls on the spectrum.

Overall, it's a solid resource and research starter with some great tips and hints - I suspect Lyons and his contributors will help us all think outside the box when we need to.

A late addition to this blog post: Age of Autism mentions a blog tour (which I knew nothing about until Monday morning; I must not be included in their definition of "key bloggers in the autism community". Oh well.) and a link to read several chaptes online (link isn't working in the dark a.m., Monday; I assume they'll repair that soon) on their mention of this book and the version for parents of boys.

Tony Lyons occasionally blogs here.

Skyhorse Publishing sent me a copy of 1001 Tips for the Parents of AUTISTIC GIRLS, Everything You Need to Know About Diagnosis, Doctors, Schools, Taxes, Vacations, Babysitters, Treatment, Food, and More in order that I may review it. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

the life book

The B & B Media Group, Inc, introduces a new project and new tool from The Gideons International to get the gospel message into the hands of every high school students in the form of a cute little book called the life book. The book is slightly larger than the palm of my hand, and easily fits into my purse (or the pocket of a high schooler's backpack).

Here's a video that explains the project:

$1.00 = 1 Life from The Life Book Movement on Vimeo.

Designed to be given to high schoolers by their classmates, the book is cute in size (108 little pages) and layout, with handwritten notes squeezed among printed information. Amazingly, the little book begins with the beginning and Genesis and incorporates excerpts from scripture to tell the gospel message. the life book briefly addresses relationships and sex, depression/worry, friends/peer pressure, self image/self esteem, too.

My one complaint as a 40-something (upper 40-something) adult is that the print is so tiny that I have trouble reading it while wearing my reading specs. Most high schoolers will have no trouble with the text and printing.

the life book costs a dollar if you'd like one for your tween or teen; you may make a monetary donation at if you'd like to donate a number of books to the effort to get one into the hands of every high schooler.

You may also read a digital version of the life book at

The B & B Media Group sent me a copy of the life book for review purposes. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Celebrating Every Learner

Celebrating Every Learner, Activities and Strategies for Creating a Multiple Intelligences Classroom by Thomas R Hoerr, Sally Boggeman, Christine Wallach, and the Faculty of the New City School ($32.95) is another wonderful book published by Jossey-Bass that helps teachers and parents be better teachers, this time, by defining MI (multiple intelligences) and giving us activities and strategies for growing them as we teach.

I know that there is quite a bit of research in the area of Multiple Intelligences and I believe that figuring out where my homeschooler (a child on the autism spectrum) has strengths and weaknesses in areas is important. Understanding each intelligence, what, exactly, each is, and understanding how to capitalize on strengths, grow both strengths and weaknesses, is brand new to me. I want to know more. The authors of Celebrating Every Learner give me more.

As I flipped through the book on a first look-see, one activity caught my eye: Unfairness on Purpose: A Problem Solving Mind-Set. It's part of the Interpersonal Intelligence, an area of weakness for individuals on the autism spectrum, and a topic (unfairness on PURPOSE) that is difficult for most of us. How might we teach our students to think about that? It's in the book, chapter one, which is here. My favorite part of each chapter is the section of resources, lists, and checklists at the end. Oddly enough, I would rather begin with the checklist for the intelligence to give me a snapshot, a preview of the intelligence, and then begin the chapter from the beginning. (That's a Pennyism.)

This book is written for groups of students; if you're homeschooling one child, as I am, there will be some activities you can adapt at home and some you'll want to use in a group, a co-op setting, perhaps. Some of the activities are appropriate for church and youth group settings.

From my perspective, the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, there are activities in the book that could be used with a dyad or triad to incorporate practice navigating relationships while focusing on an activity that includes (but is not limited to) academics, previewing, predicting, planning, assessing after the fact, movement, music, and perspective taking. The authors give the teacher ideas to generalize concepts outside the activities, too. It's another book that reminds me that sometimes I need to think outside the box a little more.

Curious? A sample lesson is HERE. Instead of my listing the multiple intelligences here, check them out: The TOC is here. If you're like me and like to start with the index, it's here.

I especially like the fact that the book includes disabilities simulation activity.

Celebrating Every Learner comes from the experience of a team of professionals who know that the activities are do-able and that they accomplish what they intend to accomplish. The activities, for the most part, use everyday items that you would find in a typical classroom or homeschool. Sometimes, a book aimed at teachers uses professional terms and lingo that have me reaching for the dictionary; the authors of Celebrating Every Learner have written a book that even a laymom can understand and they've provided activities and strategies that I can implement. They've given me some new information to help my daughter with some do-able activities. If you're looking for new perspective and insight, whether you are a school-building school teacher or a homeschool teacher/parent, this book may be helpful for you, too.

Jossey-Bass sent me a review copy of Celebrating Every Learner in order that I may review it on my blog. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Previews are important for all of us

We often preview an upcoming event for a child on the autism spectrum. Social Stories™ are one popular tool that parents and professionals use to preview a situation or event for an individual on the autism spectrum.

Sometimes, I think the world thinks that individuals w/ autism are "special" in the need to have that all important preview.

Today, I got a reminder that ALL of us benefit from previews when dealing with a new (uncertain) situation or event. Check out the way one hospital previews surgery for children:

To quote Kathie Snow from Disability is Natural, "We're more alike than different." A good reminder.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I've been sick for over two weeks. This upper respiratory bug has kicked my bottom. Movement triggers coughing, wretching. My energy is zapped. I know two other moms who've had the same thing, one worse than I, one about the same as I, and we all feel completely wiped out, and cough when we move or try to talk.

I haven't put gas in the car in two weeks. That's how little I've been out. I dragged myself to the girls' once-a-week skating classes, keeping a cough drop or hard candy in my mouth to calm the coughing trigger. An hour there wore me out. I managed to get to the grocery store for basics. Little else.

I fell off my homeschooling lesson plan. When a mom coughs when she tries to talk, she can't read to or with her child, demonstrate and interact with the child and the abacus, work on new vocab, etc.

I was a day late on one review and am a week and a day late on a Timberdoodle review, my first review for them. I doubt they'll offer me another review item. But playing their really cool game that has incredible therapeutic possibilities, too, has not been an option for this mom who has been doing the bare minimum. My kids have played it - and I failed to capture the photos I need for the blog post.

I still do not feel 100%. My girl doesn't either. She's had a touch of something viral (runny nose, puffy eyes are signs of that) that has sent her perseverating and stimming, has caused her "autism" to rise and be more present. She's missed quite a few therapies in the past couple of weeks.

I do feel stronger than I did even over the weekend, and am mentally reorganizing. I have to make myself follow through with action. Laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, decluttering, cleaning - everything beckons, because I have fallen so behind on everything. And I have six or seven independent review items to tell you about in addition to two TOS reviews coming in a few weeks. I need to make myself a to-do list to help me prioritize.

I do not intend for my blog to be a review-only blog, although there are periods of time where that happens. I apologize for that. I enjoy connecting people, families, teachers, professionals with resources, and I am privileged to receive a lot of resources to tell you about, hopefully, connecting some of you with a resource here and there that is helpful on your journey.

I feel guilty, as if I've been ignoring my blog on purpose, when, in fact, I simply have not had the energy to write.

I hope to be back up and blogging regularly in a few days. I have some observations about skating and my NT daughter to tell you about, and I'm pondering the effect of real-life UNproductive UNcertainty on me, trying to write in my mind something that will come out of my fingers for the blog in a few weeks. I'm getting an education in a lot of areas in this time of illness and reorganization.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Collectorz; a TOS Crew Review

I have been wishing for a way to catalog all of my e-books and e-files. My wish was granted in the form of an item to review. Collectorz is software that allows me to enter and catalog books and e-books, music, movies, video games, and comics.

I have collected quite a number of homeschool-related e-books. Every time a company offers a free or low cost e-book, especially a unit study, I try to download it and save it to a flash drive. I have two flash drives full. My memory is decent enough to remember that I have certain items, so that when Little Bit has an interest in a subject, I know I have something that will fit, but I often waste time trying to find it. I have posted more than once on homeschool boards, asking folks how they catalog all of their e-products, with no real answers.

Collectorz is the answer. You can try 30 days free; if you like it, you may buy the Pro version for $49.95.

The difficulty for me is finding the time to complete the data entry. Another challenge for me is resisting the urge to reorganize all of my books while I'm entering data into Collectorz. I want to alphabetize my books or organize them by subject or something, and time doesn't allow for that at the moment.

Setting up Collectorz on my laptop was easy. (I have no patience or tolerance for glitches right now, and there were zero glitches.) For books, I plan to purchase an inexpensive scanner that will allow me to enter books without all the data entry. I entered a few books to get the feel of the program; I really like the ability to categorize my cookbooks and enter comments and notes (to help me find specific recipes that I've used in the past). Having the ISBN number makes data entry a bit easier; simply enter the number (minus dashes and spaces) and Book Collector finds the title, author, and other info for you and automatically fills in those blanks. I detest data entry although I've always been quite good at it.

Seeing lists of books on the screen is so, what's the word I seek? Satisfying. Once I get the book entered, I can check my database before I buy something and I won't have duplicates. And I can track books that I loan to others (although I have pretty much stopped loaning books because I lost so many that way, but if I wanted to loan one, I could track it).

Collectorz is a really handy way to categorize my books and e-book files. If you'd like to read other Crew Collectorz reviews, go here.

I was given a free version of Collectorz in order to use it and review it for my blog. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

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