Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girls' Guide to Growing Up

Explaining menstruation and puberty and all of the changes that happen to a daughter with developmental delays is challenging. All of the books I have seen are written for typically developing girls, meaning with more words and text than I'd like, with visuals that are not as in-depth as I'd like for my visual learner.

Woodbine House sent me a review copy of The Girls' Guide to Growing Up, Choices & Changes in the Tween Years by Terri Couwenhoven, M.S.

The Girls' Guide to Growing Up is a 62 page paperback priced at $16.95. The book is written on a third-grade level, covers puberty, body changes, emotional changes, periods, hygiene, appropriate touch and what to do if someone touches you inappropriately. It talks about bras and shaving and pimples, sexual feelings, flirting.

The book is really well done. The page layouts are attractive and inviting with large print and not too many words on a page. (A page full of text looks daunting to my girl.) There are simple drawings of nude girls with labels and a task-analysis in photographs of what to do, step-by-step, when your period arrives.

The negative of the book, for me, is that I am not ready to discuss some of the topics with my daughter. Because her development is scattered, I am not sure she has thought about some of the topics in the book, and I don't want to put something into her head that is not there yet. Some of the content I'd like to avoid is important and necessary regardless of the fact that I'd like to be an ostrich and stick my head in the sand about it.

I will look at The Girls' Guide to Growing Up alongside my daughter in order to control what she sees and to be there to discuss the topics as she is ready for them. I do like having the topics available when she is ready for them so I don't have to go looking for them.

I am pleased to have been given this book, pleased to be able to share it with you. We own several 'growing up' type books and all of them are too wordy, too complex, for our situation at this time. The Girls' Guide to Growing Up presents topics simply, effectively, visually.

I am going to do something I have never done in a review. I am going to recommend another review item with this one. The Dot Girls Period Kit would be an excellent partner with The Girls' Guide to Growing Up for a young lady with developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.

Woodbine House sent me a copy of The Girls' Guide to Growing Up to review here. I get to keep the book. I was not paid for this review. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Unwrapping an ah-ha moment

As I wrap gifts, I much prefer wrapping paper with visual guidelines on the back of it to two-sided or paper with a plain, white backside. My gifts are prettier when I am able to judge the right size of gift wrap. My work is faster, and I waste less wrapping paper. I enjoy the task more when my gifts look pretty when I am finished.Simple modifications to include an extra visual element are "added value". Sometimes, we approach a school or teacher or professional on behalf of our child who needs that additional visual element (or sensory element etc) and we are met with resistance, yet so many of us adults work better and smarter when we have the extra visual piece.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Autism Discussion Page on facebook

A facebook page worth sharing with you. If you are on facebook, consider 'liking' or joining the Autism Discussion Page.

Status Update
By Autism Discussion Page
Non directive learning

Many therapies focus on prompting, directing, and trying to draw a response out of a child. This is very irritating for the child, creates performance anxiety, and the child often freezes, requiring repeated prompting. The response often becomes very prompt dependent, and is rote learning, with little functional meaning. When you set up a favorable activity, take the performance pressure off, and allow the child to "experience" without directing, the skills will come. What we need to do more of is create experiences (activities) that put the child is situations to invite the "responses" we want to see, without drilling/prompting them. That is how most children learn. Place the child in functional activities which tend to invite the responses, and participate in the activity with him/her. Focus on "shared participation" and enjoy sharing the experience. Focus on participation, rather than performance. Stop prompting and directing, and allow the activity to flow. By the child wanting to "engage" skills will come more naturally. No one wants to be prompted, directed, and corrected.

We have become so conditioned to teach by prompting, directing, correcting, etc. that we have forgotten how to simply play, have fun, and naturally learn.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories, a TOS Crew Review

The Prophets. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Daniel. Elijah. Jonah. Powerful stories of faith and courage from the Old Testament. Beloved stories that take me straight back to Sunday School as a child.
Our family was given (to review) Volume 1, The Prophets, part of the CD series from The World's Greatest Stories.
I requested and was given the NIV version. I had no idea what to expect. The description explained that the stories are told straight from the NIV Bible. That could mean really, really good or just plain dry and boring.

I am relieved and pleased to report that storyteller and actor George W. Sarris gives five fantastic performances bringing the stories from the NIV Bible to life with different voices and accents that are quite entertaining. The stories are enhanced with music, sound effects and special effects. Interesting fact: In the FAQ of The World's Greatest Stories website, I learned that Mr Sarris memorizes the performance before he records it.

The stories range in length from 8-14 minutes. The CD we received has five stories, is available in King James or NIV versions, in cassette or CD, and is priced at $7.95.

The audio stories are very. well. done. I would have loved them as a child. I love them now. The stories take me there. The accents differentiate characters from one another in a way that I can keep track of who's who. Music is used effectively underneath the story to add to the emotional component of the stories. When I am listening to the stories, I am there. I hear the fire in the furnace crackling (the sound effects are perfect) and I can almost feel the heat. I hear the seagulls near Jonah; I can almost smell the sea air. I hear the fear in the minds of the men on the boat with Jonah. I see it all in my mind in a way that I have not before, despite reading these passages from the Bible many times over the years.


My big concern (and I chose not to allow my homeschooler hear this CD -yet- for this very reason) is the fact that these stories are scary. Hear me out. My homeschooler developed anxiety around going to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Her memories are of stories at SS and VBS about Esther, where the king wanted to kill all of her people, or about pounding nails into the hands and feet of Jesus. Scary stuff to a young child or an older child with developmental delays.We had trouble getting her into the church building for a while - she was afraid. Until she is better able to put the pieces of the story into proper perspective, I am not ready to give her an audio story with men being thrown into a furnace or a man being thrown to the lions yet.

I would consider ordering two of the CDs for her. The Life of Christ seems (as I look at story titles) to have less of the scary stuff; Joseph & His Brothers is familiar (a sib was in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat a few years ago).

The pace of the story is faster than I'd like for my child. The speech therapist evaluating her believes she comprehends everything, but her auditory processing speed is slower than typical; she needs more pauses and processing time than the CD allows. She screeches in protest when we talk to fast for her to process. (I would love to see a slowed-down version of this for her. I don't know if that is possible.) If your child has auditory processing challenges, a sample on the World's Greatest Stories may help you evaluate whether these are appropriate for your situation.

As I consider how I could begin to use these CDs with my girl, I think that she would enjoy an audio story of a topic that she already knows well (and that has fewer scary moments). If your child is like mine, needs that strong visual component and has the auditory processing challenges, introducing a CD with very loved and familiar stories may be a successful first step into the world of audio stories.

If you have a child who insists on familiar pronunciations, you may find some of the pronunciations new or different. One is Darius - du RI us vs the familiar-to-me DAR ee us.

Thinking beyond special needs and ahead

The stories contain a lot of 'new' vocabulary, words and terms we don't use every day, words worth logging in a definitions journal.

The CD is something I'd pack in the car for a long or short ride. And it's something to pop in at home while coloring or playing with clay or play dough or building a marble run or with Lego. It's also something I'd consider buying to donate to a Sunday School class. And my nieces and nephews would adore them, I think.

The CD is something I'd consider for a Sunday morning at home. Every have a Sunday where you're snowed in or you're staying home w/ a sick child? This would make a neat home-church option on one of those Sundays.

Among my friends are folks who are from the Jewish faith and some who are atheists. This particular CD (and the other Old Testament stories) is appropriate for families who are not Christian.

Thumbs up - the stories are quite entertaining and a true to scripture. The price is right, too.

See what my Crewmates' think about The World's Greatest Stories here.
The World's Greatest Stories sent me a CD to review for you. I was not paid for this review (I get to keep the CD) and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Gingerbread House

Cardboard is gluten-free, right?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cupcake Central

Suggested Bake Time
23 - 22 minutes???

Pie for Christmas

Monday, December 12, 2011

My salad

I made this dressing again.

I used an orange champagne vinegar from Trader Joe's instead of the balsamic called for in the recipe. I added tangelo slices (from our marching band fundraiser), almonds, a goat cheese rolled in cranberries, some dried cherries to spinach. Delish.

Bookmark This (Allergen Free Recipes)

Horizons Developmental Remediation Center has a web page devoted to allergen free recipes. It is located here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

GFCF Christmas-y Snack idea

A stranger walked up to me at the checkout line at the warehouse club today and asks where I found the mini candy canes. (Right by the cash register, lady.)

First of all, I have to tell you, that would never, ever have happened in Michigan. And what happened next would not have happened in Michigan, either:

And then she proceeds to tell me what she wanted the candy canes for. Dip a marshmallow in melted chocolate chips, roll them in crushed candy canes (which she crushes w/ a hammer, btw) - yummy Christmas-y snack. She had no idea she was giving me a super gluten free, dairy free, soy free etc etc etc recipe...

For All Those Going Through A Change...

Oh, the messages are bombarding me.

Here's another one.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Field Trip - Governor's Mansion

Our state's first lady has opened the governor's mansion for holiday tours. I signed my homeschooler and me up for a tour with some friends we met at art class. I'd never have considered this; I'm so glad our friends suggested it.

We came home with a unique Christmas ornament - a 24k gold plate sprig of pine needles that came from the grounds at the mansion. And we purchased a $2 booklet about the residence, which is a wonderful resource for a homeschooler in a new state. We have a lot to learn.

The tour was a perfect field trip for us. Free! :) The tour is self-guided and self-paced, which makes it very friendly to children with attention issues and the need to move around. The staff there do a *fantastic* job allowing people inside in a way that keeps the tour from being too crowded.

The CHRISTmas decorations are (of course) stunning.

The off-site parking is close to the mansion, very well organized, and buses are waiting to return you to that off site parking lot as soon as you are ready. The whole thing is very efficient. The set-up is so friendly to kids like mine who need a little more space and a little more time and the opportunity to explore on her timetable.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

That was fast...

Followup on previous post.

Positively Positive's facebook status:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”—Leo Buscaglia

and, I phoned the ice arena to ask some questions. Lots of questions, actually. Some about my daughter who is typically developing and class options for her and some questions about what may better suit my daughter with an autism spectrum disorder. In the conversation with the sweet lady at the ice arena, she told me they want to start a Special Olympics figure skating program.

Stay tuned.


The move across the country back in the spring still affects me in a big way, and it affects me a lot more than I would like. And not in a good way.

I realized over the weekend that I am afraid in a big way. I'm afraid I won't find the right professionals, the right programs, the right opportunities to support our family as a family and to give my child w/ autism the practice and experience she needs to continue to progress and integrate into the community.

Combine my fears with the fact that we moved during a time of transition for my child - moving from elementary school age to middle school age and toward high school - and I feel a lot of uncertainty. And fear. And anger. Anger is the secondary emotion. Fear is behind it.

The progress my kid has made also creates a set of challenges. She is interacting a lot more with less support and assistance than ever before, but she's not experienced and ready for settings with same-age peers. She's not ready for big groups and classes. And she's doing a lot more communication-wise than a lot of special-needs peers, which means finding a good match for her to practice interaction is getting more challenging to find. (And the child is begging for friends.)

Keep adding - add to that the fact that my knowledge and experience bases have shifted from behavioral to developmental - well, finding good matches for her in terms of classes within the special needs community gets a little more challenging.

I began to scout our old location for opportunities and went about the business enrolling and trying them. At the same time, I was researching other potential opportunities. There are some wonderful programs back there. Having them made me feel secure.

And then we were transferred. We moved. We moved to a location without anything remotely like FAR Conservatory or Friendship Circle and Lifetown. No Judson Center, no Autism ASK, no Oakland University.

The opportunities here for the 12-18 crowd are minimal at best when I compare them to what we left behind.

And the fear (disguised as anger) hits me. Will I find what she needs?

Yes. I will. Slowly. In time.

Finding opportunities here is more challenging - there's no big calendar where all of the businesses and non-profits post classes and such.

But I will find them. Quit comparing there to here. Most will be different, but equally effective toward meeting goals and objectives. (Note to self: read this paragraph again and again because you need to remind yourself of that multiple times a day.)

And I will create new opportunities, tailor-made for my kid, in natural settings with natural supports, something we want to do, something that would have been harder to do back there because when you're involved in lots of programs for kids w/ special needs, there's less time to be creative with outside the box opportunities.

That's a huge shift in my thinking. A few years ago, my desire was to create opportunities for groups of kids like mine. (And I have the benefit of coming from a place where there were lots of new opportunities created during my time there. I have lots of connections to give me advice on what works, what doesn't, how they began, how they grew it, etc.)

Now, I don't have the connections here, the energy, or the time to invest in starting something big. And as I look around, I have not yet seen anything I want to support/join and help grow. Everything I've seen thus far feels like a few steps behind us, and I don't want to move backwards. Maybe I will find that something. (I'd love to help start a Special Olympics figure skating program here.)

The thing that I need to grasp and accept is that because of the hard work we've done, we can begin to integrate 'Rella into more 'typical' experiences - and she NEEDS that - it requires a different kind of work on my part. She's not ready for just anything, though, and finding the "just right" experiences for her is a new job for me, one that I am unfamiliar with, and one that a lot of individual homeschoolers seem to be doing really well here. In the past, I learned volumes from disability-group leaders. Now I see a new set of teachers in the less visible homeschool families with children w/ unique needs.

For now, for right now, I must let go of the fear and enjoy our progress and continue to seek natural opportunities in real settings with natural supports. They are out there waiting for me to find them.

GFCF Kitchen Classroom Webinar, Friday

I'm all about passing along great resources and here is an excellent one:

Chef and Autism Mom Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is hosting a gluten-free-dairy-free-in-the-kitchen-w/-you- kids webinar, Friday morning. Go here to register and here to read about The Kitchen Classroom.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Re-enactment

I wish I'd had the camera with the larger zoom. See the blue lights of the police escort in the distance? They're escorting a group of Civil War re-enactors this week, helping us to remember an important battle, blood that was shed, lives that were lost, impacting the United States we live in today.

Dear Jolesch Photography

Dear Jolesch Photography,

I do not like your sales tactics.

You are the official photographer of Music for All's Band's of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis.

As soon as our band's prelim performance was complete, the students were ushered to the stands for some group photos. One 'formal'; one, silly. Then they were ushered just outside the stadium for individual and small group (sections) pictures.

At the same time, we had a schedule to keep. We were in a hurry. Our students had to return instruments and uniforms to buses and trucks waiting in the parking lot. Our buses and trucks had to be off the lot at a specified time, so that other bands could enter in order to perform in prelims.

So, during the hurry to complete the individual and section photos, someone from Jolesch handed our students, most of them minors, a little form to fill out, and were told it was to give your parents a discount. A lot of our kids hurriedly completed one in the rush.

A couple of days ago, I received a bill from you for not one, but TWO 10x18 panoramic photos. The fine print tells me that I need to complete the order by paying for them. I called to cancel them, and to complain about the sales tactics.

My guess is that the little form you shoved at the kids in such a hurry did explain that they are indeed ordering two photos, but the kids had no time to read the form. They barely had time to complete it. My child's name is spelled wrong on my "bill"; the rep said they had trouble reading a lot of the handwriting. I'm sure you did. The kids were in a hurry, polite to comply with your request. My child can certainly spell her own name and her handwriting is neat, and if she'd had the time to write clearly, she'd have had time to read the fine print and realize you were trying to get her money.

You probably make a lot of money this way. That's why you do it. Because it works for you. People pay that "bill" without looking at it too closely.

I want you to know that the tactic infuriates me. I don't like the fact that you used the tactic with minors. Children. The tactic is sleazy and underhanded. If you are the chosen photographer at BOA events next year, I hope BOA restricts you from using this sales technique in the official photographer contract.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Autistics Get Sick, Too

I often blog about slowing down and giving processing time so that my child can process communication and take her own action in reply. The professionals guiding us in the beginning taught us that reply speed is important and they pushed us to increase response time. I regret listening to them. We've spent the last seven years working on slowing down.

On the topic of slowing down, I came across an article that explains the concept so clearly. A facebook friend posted a link to this blog post by a person on the autism spectrum about going to the doctor that is a must share.

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