Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Family Mint, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Homeschooler: "Mom, can will you take me to buy a new video game?"

ME: "No, darlin'. You don't have enough money to buy a new video game."

Homeschooler: "Then just go to the bank and get some money, Mom!"

We have this conversation pretty often at my house. The children (my homeschooler, in particular, who is younger, developmentally, than her age) think that the bank is an endless source of cash and they have no clue that we have to work to earn money that goes into the bank, and that we can't withdraw or spend more money than we deposited. They tend to blow birthday and holiday money right away, although lately, have been able to save some in order to apply it toward a bigger purchase.

I was given access to Family Mint as part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew of reviewers. I am not obligated to produce a positive review. This particular product is free, not only to me, but to anyone who chooses to use it. (A "Pro" version will be available for purchase at a later date.)

Family Mint is a FREE online location for families to manage money and savings. Family Mint is created by parents like me (except they have the financial expertise and programming experience that I do not), who have children like mine, who were looking for a way to help their children understand money, spending, borrowing, saving, interest.

The whole thing is pretty straightforward and simple. Parents establish a family account, with a name for your financial institution (I love that!) and an account for each child, where deposits, withdrawals and interest can be entered, monitored, tracked. The deposits, loans, withdrawals, etc, are real to the family, and yet, virtual, because they can't be taken or abused by an outsider or hacker. My husband and I become the family bank, using Family Mint as our visual system that allows the children to see how money and spending and saving work. They'll begin to see and understand why we tell them we can't simply go to the bank and get some cash for every whim, wish and desire.

I can tell you that Family Mint is easy to use. I set up our family account in just a few minutes, and the most challenging part of that set-up was choosing the name of our family institution.

Each child gets a user name and password to his or her account.

Data entry is simple. So is password recovery/change, if you should need to do that (don't ask me how I know that). I get to approve or deny transactions, and I can automate allowance payments. I can lock accounts, too, to keep a child from transferring money from savings into a spending category.

Fitting Family Mint into our home...

The unpredictibility and challenges that come with a child with autism continue to have me realizing how much "normalizing" that we have to do, still. My children don't have chores. For so long, chores (independent chores) seemed unfair to ask of the sibs when the child with autism could not participate without a lot of help, and I buckled to that pressure. I recognize a lot of learned helplessness, and I'm trying to repair a lot of that.

Family Mint arrived at a good time for us, developmentally speaking. The children are ready for some responsibilities, and a weekly allowance, with ways to earn extra spending money. Family Mint did not arrive at a good time for us when I think about how sick we've been the past few months, the last eight weeks in particular, with me down for over a week with an energy-sucking upper respiratory virus that had me aching, coughing, and gave me a sore throat, two kids upchucking in different weeks and another fighting that sore-throat-thing-that's-not-strep-throat-but-throws-us-into-dysregulation-for-days-and-weeks-at-a-time.

We lost quite a few weeks of time to set up chores and pay the kids during this review period - Mom was either sick and trying to maintain the bare minimum, or she was taking care of sick children.

As we begin to implement chores (really late, I think, for this family!, but you know what they say, "better late than never") and use Family Mint regularly, I'll blog about the discoveries we make. I may purchase the Pro version when it comes out. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Family Mint offers a blog that is listed in the blogs I follow over in the right-hand side bar of this blog.

Family Mint updates members via occasional e-mail newsletters. My inbox was not overwhelmed with messages from them. (I like that.) One recent (March 8th, 2010) e-mail introduced the new Savings Plan Enhancement. Click here for details.

To read the Family Mint reviews of my Crewmates, go here.

Add this to the list of products we didn't know we needed, and were pleased to learn about it and use it when it arrived. Try it - it's free - and I have an idea that you'll like it, too.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Raw Energy, a MamaBuzz Review

I am always on the search to help me feed my family healther foods, foods that they will actually eat, and foods that are gluten free, casein free, soy free, etc etc etc. I figured I'd find a few recipes in a recipe book using raw foods.

Stephanie Tourles brings us, "Raw Energy, 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body".
List price is $16.95.

I expected that the book would be recipes only.Italic I was incorrect. The recipes do not begin until Chapter 4, on page 94 of a 272 page book.

Tourles gives me an education in all things raw food, starting with the basics, the pantry and kitchen equipment, and raw food prep. Then she launches into the recipes, beginning with nut milks, shakes, smoothies and frozen fruit creams; fruit and veggie juices; energizer bars, balls and bites; nut seed and fruit blends; raw cereals and parfaits; veggie chips, dips and spreads; cold fruit and veggie soups; candy and cookies. Suggested reading, resources and an index finish the book.

I didn't expect nuts to be in so many recipes. We can't use nuts or sunflower products here, nor pineapple, in addition to being GFCFSF. We're watching oxalates, too, which eliminate some more choices. Are there recipes I can use? Absolutely! However, the majority of the recipes use a nut or nut milk, so families with nut allergies may not find a wealth of recipes to use, although there are a few. (I wonder if I use rice milk instead of nut milk in the frozen goodies if I ruin the raw food value?)

Honey Melon Pear Soup - when I find the ingredients in season - look foward to trying that one. Raspberry Ricky Soup sounds tasty, too, and I can make it with no substitutions.

Tourles has me considering the purchase of a food dehydrator. I wonder if I could borrow one to try the recipes for dried zucchini and sweet potato chips?

Tourles has me curious about using bee pollen. She uses it in some of her recipes. I never thought to try that. I'm guessing heating bee pollen would ruin it's raw food value, so I wouldn't cook/bake with it.

I'm always thrilled to find new recipes to try, recipes that everyone in the family can eat. Thanks to Raw Energy, I have a few new recipes to introduce at home. :)

FYI: Tourles blogs here; she has a fan page on facebook.

I was given a copy of Raw Energy to review for MamaBuzz. I received no compensation for my review. I am not required to provide a positive review.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Galaxy of Education, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Math Galaxy is a math tutorial for students in grades K-12, a downloadable software product that students use on the computer. You are able to buy exactly what you need, to target a particular area for a student. Math Galaxy offers 10 software products, priced at $29.95 each, and two e-books priced at $14.95 each, with a 30-day guarantee for all of their products.

I was given a download as part of TOS Homeschool Crew's team of reviewers. I received no compensation for my review and am not required to write a positive review.

The tutorial at provides a nice look at what buyers get.

My homeschooler and I sat down with the basic math sections, and, while she is capable of doing the simple addition, her anxiety rises when she sees bigger numbers (including 8's, 9's, 10's) and all the corresponding shapes that are there to be visual demonstrations of the equations. She can do that math in real life situations in her head without much thinking, but put it on paper or on the computer monitor in front of her, and apparently, I'm adding steps that create a roadblock for her. She thinks she has to count all the triangles or circles - (when they're there as a help if needed, she thinks, for some reason, counting them is a "have to") and the screeching and protesting and resisting begin. (Doesn't help that she's been sick a lot in February and March - that lowers her frustration tolerance.)

I'm telling you this to explain that, while Math Galaxy is a fine product, my daughter's developmental stage and her anxiety are an obstacle to our using it at this time.

My son was home sick from school, and he and I sat down with it to look at something he's working on in class - fractions. He hates being made to work on math. His anxiety rises, too, but he is typically developing and is able to work through that frustration.

My son liked the visuals - the colorful illustrations were helpful to him as he worked through some of the problems.

My son and I were really frustrated by the Pictographs under the Whole Numbers section - we couldn't tell how much of a portion of a car or a bicycle was being pictured - we were getting questions wrong because the Math Galaxy people were counting a portion (fraction) different from what WE were counting it based upon what it looked like to us. We didn't like having to guess what portion of the whole was pictured, because our perpective was quite different from Math Galaxy's perspective on almost every question.

My son liked other parts of Math Galaxy. There are games as well as problems to work. He did not like my expecting him to actually spend time practicing there. ;)

I would use this as a supplement if we were using a textbook, - the visuals offer a component that textbooks do not.

When I get to the point with my homeschooler that she understands that the triangles, circles, all the shapes and visual representations are just that, a visual representation to accompany those symbols (numerals, plus sign, minus sign, equal sign), Math Galaxy will be useful for us. We need to work with more real-life, hands-on manipulatives, for now. (See here and here for background.) Concepts come before symbols - and we're in concept mode right now. We'll get to symbols in our own time.

If your child needs a visual representation of a math problem, and likes working on the computer, (it's not all on the computer; there are e-books and worksheet generators for some parts of Math Galaxy) you'll probably like Math Galaxy. They offer visuals, "graphical illustrations", for everything, including word problems. There are samples available in addition to the tutorial on the Math Galaxy web site.

To read my Crewmates' reviews about Math Galaxy, please go HERE.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Joyce DeMio: Special Diets, How to Get Started

I missed Mrs. DeMio's presentation on diet. Word on the autism mom grapevine is that she's an amazing presenter and she is full of tips, tricks and information about the GFCF diet. I talked to her for a few minutes this morning (before my family were involved in an auto accident and I headed home), and before lunch (long before the accident) I took a couple of photos (and uploaded them to prep for her presentation) of a new cheese subsitute that Mrs. DeMio had as part of a display of "safe" foods for the GFCF diet.

During our brief conversation, she recommended the "Babycakes" cookbook to me, the Namaste flour blend, and told me to add 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum to my GF flour mix and I can substitute it cup-for-cup for wheat flour in pretty much any recipe.

She gave me a great tip for making homemade GFCFSF sugar cookies. Sugar cookie dough is such a booger to work with. My cookies always fall apart while I'm lifting them from the counter or cutting board to the pan. Mrs. DeMio told me to roll the dough out ON the baking sheet, cut the sugar cookies out with a cookie cutter, and lift the excess dough from the cookie sheet, and bake. Why didn't I think of that?

Here's a photo of Mrs DeMio's display table

Maybe someone from the conference will post a few notes or hints from her presentation and be a guest blogger for me.

Unexpected turn of events

My husband had an automobile accident and I left the conference to return home. Hubby and children are shaken and sore, but okay.

I don't yet know if I'll return tomorrow. I hope to purchase some of the lectures that I missed so I can view them later.

Dr James A Neubrander with "ASD's Phase Reset Abnormality Resulting in Decreased Neuronal Recruitment and Increased Neuronal Processing Times"

"Find your child's combination and go for that."
Dr. Neubrander

Dr. Neubrander is on stage. Buckle your seat belt and hold on! He is an entertaining speaker, full of information that he relates in both "people-ease" and "doctor talk", along with colorful illustrations and anecdotes that have us laughing and on the edge of our seats. He has a rapid fire way of presenting - I don't think anyone is going to nod off today.

He reports that his office is approaching the mark of treating 1000 patients. They've done more than 70,000 hours of HBOT in his office. He's a powerhouse in terms of data and treating children on the autism spectrum, with a healthy respect for science combined with the wisdom to know that parents contain valuable observations and information that plays an important role in helping our children feel better, and feeling better positively impacts every aspect of their days.

He's talking about GABAs at this particular moment - I have a feeling this will coincide with what Susan Owens has to tell us tomorrow. He explained it in "doctor talk" - now I must stop typing to hear it it "people-ease".

The information he's giving us on neuronal recruitment in brain phases and the differences between "normal" individuals and those with autism is fascinating - and it makes sense to me as Dr Neubrander describes it in context of memory and information processing, sensory issues and stimming.

If you're reading as I'm blogging, and you're interested in a DVD of a presentation, AMAB is selling them for $20 each or $225 for the entire conference. I'm told a link will be up on the AMAB web site shortly.

Breakthrough Developmental Strategies and the Biomedical Connection

As a toddler, Raun Kaufman's parents were told he had an IQ of 30, and that he would never learn to speak, learn to read or write, never laugh at a joke, never go on a date or have a circle of friends, never drive a car or live on his own, never have a career.

He's here, today, speaking to the AMAB conference. He has a degree in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University, has no trace of his former condition, lives a typical life and is considered fully recovered from autism.

I saw him present a year ago- I know we're in for a treat, today. His parents are founders of the SonRise Program.

The SonRise folks were way ahead of the curve in prioritizing interaction over skills and academics, and Raun Kaufman speaks eloquently about they why bother and the how to from a SonRise perspective.

Our intervention of choice has very similar roots to SonRise - our intervention's application is different. I wish I'd heard this developmentally based message in the very beginning of our journey.

The Immune System In ASD (Actos, LDN, IVIG, Curcumin)

Dr DeMio just finished a presentation about the role of the immune system in ASD. He covered the use of ACTOS, Low Dose Naltrexone, IVIG, and Curcumin.

Interesting stuff. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on this blog. I have tried quite a number of biomedical interventions, starting with epsom salts baths followed closely by the removal of gluten, and then casein, nine years ago. I've been careful to let the pediatrician know exactly what I was doing (I stayed away from chelation because she was not comfortable with it), and have worked with several mainstream and alternative medicine practitioners over the years.

My child is a responder - particularly to diet. If you haven't seen her eczema pictures, find the section of labels on the right side of my blog and click on "eczema".

I don't recommend dabbling in biomedical without the help of a doctor. There are enough doctors available now that families don't have to go it alone.

Back to Dr DeMio's presentation.

When he said that they're seeing curcumin having a calming effect on a lot of kids, my radar went way up. Note to self: research curcumin.

He said he's seen a lot of teenagers improve with IVIG. Very interesting. Maybe I should research that, too.

Grants for Autism Treatments

The things you learn at conferences...

Books for Children About the GFCF diet and Biomedical Treatment

I had the privilege to meet Dr. Janelle Love this morning at the AMAB conference. Dr. Love gave me two books to blog about.

I am so excited to tell you about these books. I had not found a series of books like these to help explain in simple terms some of the interventions we use on our journey to treat the medical challenges in autism.

Now I have.

Dr. Love has written three books (one is in the process of being published, I saw a preview this morning) for children to help them understand the GFCF diet and biomedical treatment.

If your child has ever asked, "Why does my poop get stuck?", like the child in the story, you'll like "Why Does My Belly Hurt?"

Dr. Love tells it like it is. She uses just enough words in the story. I like that. Sometimes, text can become an obstacle to comprehension and meaning, and these story books doesn't overdo the words, and use illustrations to help tell the story, the child's story, and that includes special diets and why we use special diets, why some children have to take special vitamins, all events my child can relate to (those important self-to-text and text-to-self comparisons in literacy development). Kim Taylor's illustrations are excellent. She's an autism mom, and not only is she a talented illustrator, she also understands visual learners, and the books are a wonderful tool to use with your child and their peers and sibs.

The books are available for purchase at .

Friday, March 26, 2010

Charting the Course: Using Assessment to Navigate Choices in Autism

Dr Laurie Lundblad is a pediatric oncology nurse (or was, in a past life) and a PhD level psychologist and she's an autism mom. I've known her for almost nine years, but had never seen her present until today. She's fabulous.

This particular presentation is one that every parent needs to hear. It's one that has many golden nuggets inside that I probably would have missed in the early days of my daughter's diagnosis in my rush to try to intervene as much and fast as I could, and she says many of the things I needed to hear and understand back then but did not hear or understand.

I snapped some photos of my favorite slides from her presentation. For today, I'll let them speak for themselves. I may expand upon them here at a later date.


The last two presenters of the day are two of my favorite people, evah. I've known both of them for almost nine years, from the earliest days of my journey on this autism pathway. I've seen their hearts, their compassion for the children, the parents and the families, at professional and personal levels. I am blessed and privileged to know them.

Mom Stephanie Harlan spoke on the topic of "Parents Empowered: How to get from Help! To Hope!" and she featured footage of her son, recovered, testifying before the state legistlature last year.
One of my favorite lines from her presentation was the title of this blog post, "Never give up hope." Another one is, "Believe that autism is treatable...surround youself with believers."

"Living With 'The Feeling'"

Lyle Hatcher and Don Caron just concluded their presentation about "Living with 'The Feeling'" - an interesting perspective from Hatcher's experience with ADHD from childhood until now.

One slide jumped out at me - the men asked children how drugs for ADD and ADHD make them feel (see the second slide).

Hatcher and Caron have co-authored a book called "Different Drummers," which is an amazing story from Hatcher's childhood. Hatcher saw me blogging from the conference and gave me a copy - so hold on, I'll have a review for you as soon as I can read it. I know it is going to be compelling, and probably a tearjerker, after chatting with Mr Hatcher for a few minutes.

Autism Mom Stephanie Harlan is up next.

If a medical problem on the inside...

in English & Spanish

"If a medical problem on the inside is causing the autistic symptoms, it makes sense to treat it medically..."
(pronounced DeMEE-oh)


Radical theories...ideas...first...ridiculed...

Dr Patrick Elliott, DO

One of the interesting things about Dr Patrick Elliott is that he's a SURGEON. He happens to have twin boys who regressed into autism, and he, like so many parents, dove into treatment to try to help his boys, and learned a lot along the way.

I like him. I think every parent that I talked after this presentation said they really like Dr. Elliott. He has an incredibly down-to-earth way of presenting to parents, and he brings a dose of reality to a conference filled with parents who would probably do or try just about anything to help a child with autism.

His sense of finding balance, his perspective of doing what makes sense, and looking out for what he calls proprietary predators is practical and real. It's a message that parents looking for treatment and "cures" need to hear.

He makes some incredible points about how facts that we now accept were once ridiculed. One example is the fact that handwashing in hospitals was simply not done, and the individuals who thought handwashing prevented infection were ridiculed before we had a microscope to show us the germs we could not see before.

His discussion of what insurance will cover to extend the life of someone with cancer compared to what insurance will not cover for children with autism was something I'd not considered before. He said that in so many cases, insurance will pay for chemo and radiation to extend the life of someone for six months, a year, two years. And we should do that, he said. (He's right - I agree with him -- we should.) But those treatments aren't durable. They don't last. In autism, we're seeing treatments that improve the quality of life for children and are durable, that last. Children continue to improve. And insurance for the most part, won't cover those treatments.

Food for thought for me. We're fortunate to have Dr. Elliott on this pathway alongside us.

Don't Be Afraid To Take The Road Less Traveled

"Don't be afraid to take the road less traveled because it is there you will find success." Heidi Scheer at today's AMAB Conference about treating children with autism.

A TV station local to the conference showed up to interview Mrs. Scheer and Dr. DeMio. Go here to read the copy and see the video.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Power of NOTHING by Dr James D MacDonald


Nothing works!
We hear this frequently from parents and professionals .
“No matter what I do, my child won’t:
play with me --- respond or initiate --- imitate actions or sounds
do anything new or creative ---- make different sounds
talk with me---stop irritating me --- behave well --- show me what he knows.

After many years of careful observing, we find that adults frequently
Make the decisions without seeing what the child wants.:
Do not give the child enough time to interact.
Do things for the child that he can do himself.
Do not give the child enough time to respond.
Do much more than the child without waiting.
Do not learn what the child can and wants to do.
Interrupt and talk for the child.
Try to get the child to respond in specific ways.

In our work with hundreds of families , we find that
Nothing often does work
We find that the less an adult does the more a child will do.
When we define Nothing as silence, waiting, giving the child time
and simply observing the child carefully,
Then we find that Nothing really works to---
Help the child interact more
Encourage him to both initiate and respond more.
Give him time to prepare a response.
Allow the child to be creative.
Make him more spontaneous.
Show you are interested in what he can do.
Allow him freedom to be himself.
Help you be a real partner
How can you make nothing work for you?
Wait silently for the child to start an interaction
Respond briefly, then wait again.
Wait with a look of anticipation .
Do one thing then wait for your child to take a turn.
Play in a back and forth way, each doing about the same amount -.
Wait when you think he can do more.
Discover that the more you wait, the more he surprises you with what he knows.
The more you wait , the more you learn what really motivates the child.
Consequently, doing “nothing” helps you know your child more.
Play sometimes without talking unless he does.
Learn that he needs time to figure out what to do.
Expect and enjoy the surprises you get as you wait.
Realize that you do not have to do it all; he needs to do half.
Realize that your child learns by doing, so give him time to do.
Learn that his own response will tell you more about him than responding to what you want.

Copyright James D. Mac Donald 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Children's Bible Hour Seasons of Faith, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Children's Bible Hour Ministries has produced radio shows since 1942. I've known about them for a long time. I haven't always had access to their radio shows.

Today, CBH Ministries produces more than radio shows, including Bibles, devotionals, audio dramas, tracts and story books.

Children's Bible Hour Ministries sent crew members (at no charge to crew members) the new Seasons of Faith series of story books and audio CDs to review.

The set of four books includes Race with Midnight; You Can't Come In; Seventy Times Seven; and Braving the Storm. Each book/cd combination is individually priced at $10 and the 4-book/cd series is priced at $40.

The stories are engaging, are about situations that children can relate to (for those important self-to-text and text-to self comparisons), they're short (approximately 15 minutes in length) and the illustrations are attractive and well done. Readers and listeners are offered information about salvation at the end of each story.

The combination of book and CD is great for children with unique learning needs, especially those with more than one challenge (for example, auditory processing challenges and reading challenges). We've begun to experiment with using both, so my daughter can follow the text, look at the illustrations, and listen to the story, simultaneously. Having both the audio recording and the book takes a lot of pressure off of a new reader.

I think they'd make a nice gift for a birthday, Easter basket, Christmas, and would be a great addition to a children's ministry at church.

To read the reviews of Seasons of Faith by my Crewmates, click HERE.

Our Find at the Scholastic Book Fair

For the skating princess!
Isn't it neat?!

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