Sunday, February 27, 2011

Please & Thank You

Just a few days ago, I witnessed an event that is relatively common in autism and special needs circles that used to be a 'normal' event for me, one that is now appalling to me.

Child was prompted to say "please" when requesting an item, and prompted again to say "thank you" when the child was given that item. Mom helped by guiding child's head toward therapist. (I wrote about that here.) The therapist with the item "helped" by reminding the child to tell her eyes "thank you".

What's so horrible about that, you may wonder? Manners are a good thing.

Manners are a good thing, but let's help our children experience manners within a context of real reciprocity, the full package of communication, non-verbal and verbal/words/"talk".

The child was not given an opportunity to orient her body or her gaze toward the gift giver, was not given an opportunity to reply on her own. Those opportunities were stolen. Worse, the child was not expected to be able to do those things. (Why are parents taught to behave this way with kids on the autism spectrum, anyway?)

"Please" and "thank you" are soooooooo much more than three little memorized (rote) words and meaningless eye contact. Teaching a child on the autism spectrum that "please" and "thank you" are only about eye contact and saying the right words is not only short sided, it is giving the child a completely different experience than the rest of the world gets.

Let's quit ignoring reciprocity at non-verbal levels when we think about, work with kids on the autism spectrum. Please. Thank you.

As a parent, I did not understand this at all until RDI(r) came along for me almost seven years ago. None of the professionals in my life understood it, either, much like the therapist in red scrubs who thought she was "helping". Why is a developmental approach still so rare? Why do so few therapists and teachers understand this?

Being a competent responder of prompts does not = the interaction and reciprocity that children on the autism spectrum need to practice and experience for themselves. Being a competent responder of prompts does not = the interaction we parents long for. You can't get there from here.

The therapist would have impressed me had she used an experience sharing statement, like, "I'm over here."coupled with plenty of processing and response time instead of a direct prompt demanding an immediate response with empty, meaningless eye contact in the directive, "tell it to my eyes".


Our children need practice and experience in interdependence, interaction, reciprocity, turn taking, etc, at non-verbal levels, first. The basic non-verbal dance steps are critical to the later steps. Feeling self taking an action in concert with other is one of the basic foundations, and that cannot be experienced by following prompts. You can't get there from here. If you as the parent or therapist is doing both sides of the dance for the child with autism, you are creating learned helplessness: I don't have to hold up my side, non-verbal and verbal, of the interaction, because someone will directly prompt me when needed.

I won't be using that therapist or sending my child to her summer camp program. You probably guessed that.

And if you're interested in reading more about my journey, away from prompting, toward non-verbal foundations of interaction, start with the label "learned helplessness" (lefthand side bar of my blog).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gluten Free Dairy Free Middle Tennessee

We took a trip down South last week (if you're wondering why my blog was in "lite" mode last week, well, that's why, we were traveling). I was hoping for a Biaggi's or a Cheeseburger in Paradise like we found in Evansville, Indiana, last summer when we took a trip to Holiday World, but we were out of luck.

We did, however, find a huge selection of restaurant options for a family with a child with food intolerances.

If you're considering a vacation and are looking for a GF and GFCF friendly area, Nashville and Middle Tennessee seem to be very friendly.

Here's a list of restaurants that I checked out ahead of time that you also may want to check out if you're traveling through the state of Tennessee. Disclaimer: I am not an expert on GFCF in Tennessee; restaurants policies and ingredients can change without notice; DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH and do not rely on anything I have posted here ; Be sure to call and confirm each location for your list of allergens and to confirm that each business still serves GFCF versions:

Nucci's Italian Ice and Gelato serves a couple of flavors of GFCF gelato and a bigger number of Italian Ice flavors. The dark chocolate gelato remided me of eating rich brownie batter, only ice cold, and is GFCFSF. Amazing! ;) Nucci's Vanilla Italian Ice was created with the idea of snow cream in mind, and that's exactly what it reminded me of.

I called McDougals and the grilled chicken fingers with smoky barbecue sauce are gluten free and dairy free!

Five Guys Burgers and Fries - they have a "no bun" option and don't even blink when you order a burger with no bun. Love it! We have Five Guys here but have never eaten at one until our trip. Hint: use online ordering during lunch time. (My thanks to the anon commenter to this post pointed out the fact that Five Guys serves peanuts inside the store and they fry their french fries in peanut oil.)

Otters has grilled chicken and their french fries are fried separately - it looks like an option.

Chick-fil-a - We don't have Chick-fil-a's where we live now. We did not get to try one while we were traveling. I hear that Cfa is a great place for GFCFers. (My thanks to the anon commenter to this post pointed out the fact that Chick-fil-a uses peanut oil.)

Jason's Deli uses Udi's bread, a larger size loaf that we get in a grocery store. We ate there several times during our trip. They serve the biggest baked potatoes I have ever seen.

Shane's Rib Shack - has a big GF menu. The store we visited is a corner store in a strip mall, not what we expected. I thought it would be a sit-down restaurant where wait staff comes to your table to take your order; instead, you order at a counter at the front door and then sit down and wait for your food. The food was good; the service was okay (after a two-minute discussion about corn-on-the-cob, the staff failed to place corn-on-the-cob on our order as requested, and then made us pay for it when we missed it at the table, telling us it wasn't on our receipt when it was their mistake).

Matteos Pizza - made an expensive little GF pizza minus cheese that my girl inhaled.

Mellow Mushroom - we never made it there. Maybe next time. Here's a review from another blogger.

PF Changs has a large gluten free menu; I thought soy would be a problem here. It is, but soy is not the biggest problem: the biggest problem with this restaurant is that their meats are marinated in milk, so a large portion of the menu is a no-no for a child on a GFCFSF diet. I spoke to the manager of a restaurant near where we'd be staying, and he talked me through a few options, told me to ask for him when we arrived and he'd make sure my girl's food was safe of allergens. We didn't make it to that particular restaurant on this trip, but I was impressed with my experience with the manager on the phone and will consider PF Changs in the future.

I'll continue to add to this post as I learn more. Here are some other resources:

Gluten Free Nashville has more suggestions here.

Gluten Free Cat blogs about Nashville GF finds here.

Tennessean article about GF area choices here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Over? Under? or Sideways?????

If you can't agree with the members of your household on the under / over issue, I am pleased to report that there is a third option:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It fits...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Educational Card Games and a Board Game

When Eldest and I shopped a few weeks before Christmas at a bookstore that was closing, I bought two $10 card games at 40% off. They're all made by the same company, called Out of the Box. I'd never seen any of them.

They're worth sharing with you.

7ATE9 is a game that challenges your addition and subtraction skills.

Super Circles is a game that requires visual discrimination, multi-tasking, and speed. Everyone plays at once, no turn-taking, and players must match a combination of ring color and placement to the previously played card, which takes quick attention shifting and visual discrimination. As you play your card, you call out the number of the ring. Players continue until all the cards are played.

I found one board game, Backseat Drawing, that, for a mom of a child on the autism spectrum, with delays in shared attention, perspective taking, and experience sharing, is a fun gem. (yes, it was also 40% off - I do like a bargain!)

If you are looking for games that sneak academics, aspects of different therapies, and relationship building pieces in the 'back door', you may want to look at this company for products or inspiration.

As that big bookseller is closing stores, you might just find a bargain, too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Exceptions

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Reluctant Reader Solution, a TOS Crew Review

My child regressed into autism around the same time as her first birthday. By her second birthday, we had intervention in full swing. After three + years of behavioral intervention, we made a big switch to a developmental intervention when she was five years old. Instead of programming her behaviorally, using a lot of rote memorization of facts out of context, a developmental approach has set us back on a typical pathway, with the same milestones and discoveries that typically developing kids experience with their parents, their teachers, and themselves.

My child's developmental pathway is her own. She's on a different timetable than most kids her age. While she is delayed, she is reading and comprehending more than she realizes she is. She hasn't yet made the self-discovery that she is a reader. Instead, reading is a catalyst that sends her anxiety soaring and her comprehension shutting down. As her parent and teacher, I have to think outside the box in terms of opportunities for her to read that keep her anxiety from skyrocketing. The more positive opportunities that I can provide for her, the closer she will get to making the self-discovery that she is indeed a reader.

This TOS Crew review item, The Reluctant Reader Solution, provides the perfect resource for those positive reading opportunities.

The Reluctant Reader Solution is a package of what I would describe as clever mini-unit studies that add up to 365 pages of fun and a year's subscription (12 months) of an equally fun monthly digital newspaper called Kid Scoop.

For $97, purchasers have access to downloadable packets of worksheets covering almost 60 topics that are kid and parent friendly and a year of monthly 20-page online Kid Scoop newspapers in full color.

Packet topics cover a wide variety of interests for boys, girls, and for parents.

Check out the list of fun and interesting topics:

Acting, backpacks, band, baseball, bees, Bigfoot, bubblegum, budgeting, butterflies, cartooning, Cinco De Mayo, clay play, Columbus Day, Constitution Day, Easter, elves, Father's Day, fire safety, fitness, frost, gardening, germs, gorillas, green kids, Halloween, Heifer International, hockey, holidays (traditional winter holidays), immunization, independence around the world, international space station, junkyard sports, kitchen creativity, Louisa May Alcott, Memorial Day, mini-golf math, MLK day of service, Mother's Day, nutrition labels, "Old Stormalong" (sailing), optical illusions, orcas, otters, Owen and Mzee, point of view, skin protection, smores, solar snacks, St Patrick's Day, "State of You", tadpoles, teasing, Thanksgiving, the Maya, Tom Sawyer, Toys for Tots, Valentine's Day, Veteran's Day, and Wangari Maathai.
Each topic is presented in 5, 6, or 7 worksheets packed with information, experiments to do away from the worksheet, games, and puzzles. The pages are inviting and attractive.

My reluctant reader dove right in. No balking. No resisting. No protesting. And I didn't have to sit down at the computer and find all the information, games, etc, and put them together myself. She's learning and enjoying it. She's experience sharing (both directions, not just telling me stuff she sees or knows) and I do enjoy when she shares something with me that she has read. The Reluctant Reader Solution gives us activities to share with one another and activities she can do alone and tell me about.

In addition to facts and information, some of the worksheets offer opportunities to perspective take, to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes. There are activities that grow thinking skills, too, that give students opportunities to apply knowledge and not simply memorize rote facts.

Kid Scoop, the online newspaper, is full color, set up in a similar, but not-exactly-the-same format as the worksheets, filled with information to read, games to play, puzzles to solve, all within a monthly theme. Parents and students can choose to read portions of it online and print just the games and puzzles, or print the entire edition. I think the Kid Scoop newspaper is nicely done. It works the same way my online magazines, do, with the page turns and everything. It's a great introduction to digital magazines and newspapers. My daughter does not like the online newspaper; she resists and protests it. I think it feels overwhelming to her. She welcomes the single pages I've printed from it. Perhaps the smaller chunks don't overwhelm her.

There is an option to listen to the text as it is spoken by a computer-generated voice as well. (I would prefer that a person read the text.)

The download was easy; The Reluctant Reader Solution sits in a zip file on my computer, ready for quick access and a quick print.

Obviously, you'll need a printer and supplies (toner, copy paper) or access to a printer (office supply store), so there are more costs involved than just the $97 package. The worksheets and newspaper pages are great for learners who don't learn from direct teaching in a 'traditional' setting; they're great for car trips, waiting rooms, and sick days, too.

My favorite aspect about both products is the opportunity to float some trial balloons in terms of interests. My girl learns best when chasing an interest, and The Reluctant Reader Solution gives me the opportunity to try a bunch of new topics, topics within topics, too. The Reluctant Reader Solution has given more insight into my child's interests, and that is valuable to both of us, as she is making self-discoveries about new topics, which plays a role into the self-discovery that she is a reader and another self-discovery that she is a learner.

There is only one topic that I will not print, will not use, and I am pleased that I have the option to ignore that one.

I do enjoy the convenience of both products. For a busy day or a day when my girl is under the weather, I can print pages without taking a lot of time and have fun and informational activities (some that we can do in the kitchen away from the worksheet) and we're good to go. I like that I do not have to do the work to create the pages myself.

Kid Scoop is more expensive for me if I want to print it in full color. I've printed pages in both black & white and color; color is much more attractive and fun; b&w is more economical.
$97 seemed like a lot of money to me at first until I thought about the cost divided by 12 months. The cost is not so much per month to give my homeschooler and me a peek into what new topics she finds interesting. I don't have time to create sets of worksheets like these, and I don't want to waste my time on topics that are not appealing to my homeschooler. By owning the program, I can print a set, if they aren't interesting, I can set them aside for a later time or throw them away without hesitation because I had no big investment of my time and effort in them, no hurt feelings that she didn't like the topic I chose.

A free sample is here. Individual packets are available here for $2.99 each.

The Reluctant Reader Solution offers a 365-day money back guarantee.

The Reluctant Reader Solution and Kid Scoop web site contains fun ideas, a place to share information and ideas, and some freebies in addition to items for purchase. Sign up for a month of Make Reading Fun ideas sent to your e-mail inbox (free) here; follow Kid Scoop on facebook here.

To read reviews of The Reluctant Reader Solution by my Crewmates, please go HERE.

I was given a copy of The Reluctant Reader Solution for review purposes. I was not paid for this review, do not benefit if you purchase the product, and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What do children need before having conversations?

In my effort to educate other parents about the things I wish I'd known and understood as we were beginning autism intervention, I am sharing with you the words (with permission) of a brilliant teacher.

After my girl regressed, I wanted nothing more than to get her development back on track, to give her words so she could talk to me. I had all the confidence in the world that the vocabulary we had her memorizing would not be useful without a foundation of non-verbal conversations, first. The more she memorized, the less communicated. I was shocked by that. I was told we'd get something very different from our behavioral approach, not the robotic, prompt dependent child who did not interact on her own.

Yesterday's post is Dr Jim's wisdom about communication myths. Go here to read it. Today's post is closely related. Below is more insight from Dr James D MacDonald, this time, some specifics about what children DO need before having conversations.

I wish I'd understood this concept when my daughter was just turning two years old. We went the behavioral route, which didn't do what we thought it would, and it created a lot of problems that we are still unraveling at 11. I hope I help someone avoid the mistakes I made.


by Dr James D MacDonald

A Conversation is any meaningful exchange of ideas, information or emotion between two persons. The beginnings of conversations lie in skills young children can develop. If they are not developed, older children can still learn conversations but they must also learn the early skills that build them. Those skills are:

1. Social interaction habits
2. Initiating and responding
3. Imitating and learning from others’ models.
4. Taking turns in a give and take style
5. Being reciprocal- sharing each other’s meaning.
6. Staying in interactions more than briefly.
7. Communicating for a response not just at someone.
8. Listening and responding in kind.
9. Showing interest in what another says.
10. Having something too say to another.
Nonverbal children who have active relationships with others can learn these early skills. For persons without conversation skills, they are the keys to build in them.

They also need to interact frequently with people who are

sharing control
being playful and emotionally attached.

Conversations are partnerships and so this requires both he child and his partners to change and join the child's developmental path.

I'd like to see some examples of your children's conversations and your struggles in building them with your child.
(Note from Penny: Dr Jim's web site provides info about an internet location to chat with him and other parents about early foundations of communication.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Common Myths About Communication: DON'T BELIEVE THEM

Here's another important message from Dr. James. D. MacDonald, aka "Dr. Jim", from Communicating Partners and Play to Talk.

by Dr James D MacDonald

Our 35+ years of clinical research with hundreds of families and professionals reveal several common beliefs about Conversation.

These beliefs can seriously limit a child’s success in life.
(MacDonald, 2004; MacDonald and Mitchell, 2002)

1. Conversation skills come after language.
2. Children have conversation skills needed to generalize learning to daily lives.
3. Conversations come automatically with language.
4. Conversations at home are not important
5 Conversations cannot be taught
6. Conversations do not belong in therapy and education
7. Parents cannot teach conversation.
5. Questions and monologues are sufficient conversation skills.
7. Conversation skills cannot be learned.
8 Conversations do not help a child learn
9. Conversations do not belong in education
10. Conversation is not necessary for success in life.


Widespread research findings show the above assumptions to be untrue and support the following conclusions that are the bases of the Communicating Partners approach to Conversation.

1. Conversation skills should be learned long before speech

2. The earlier they are learned; the easier conversation develops.

3. Many schools teach cognitive, and behavioral skills without the conversation skills needed to make them work in daily life.

4. Many educational approaches actually train children to NOT have conversations.

5. Conversations definitely do not come automatically with language: many have much language and little conversation.

6. Without conversations, people appear much less competent than they really are.

7. Children are often evaluated (diagnosed) improperly when they have limited conversation skills.

9. Conversations simply mean going back and forth meaningfully with partner with any behaviors—actions, sounds, as well as words.

10. Conversation skills can be learned as well as any other social skills:

11 We actually learn more from conversations than from being taught.

12. Daily social routines foster greater learning than academic or behavioral drills because they allow conversations about immediate experiences.

13. We should not expect conversations to be easily learned in academic settings unless they are deliberately structured.
Thank you for thinking about these life-changing ideas.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Curiosity Files: The Dung Beetle; a TOS Crew Review

Dung Beetles. Who knew that there is a unit study available about these uh, hmm, well, interesting creatures?

Introducing Dung Beetle from The Curiosity Files, an 80-page download (pdf) unit study (76 pages if you don't count the cover pages and two ads at the end) about an insect that survives on the dung of certain animals.

I volunteered for this particular review because I wanted a peek inside The Curiosity Files. Are they appropriate for a learner with special needs? Are they easily customized? Can I pick and choose parts and leave the others for a later time when my learner's reading skills have matured a little more?

The answers are all "yes".

We have not yet worked through an entire unit study on any topic; we use bits and pieces and create a mini-version of unit studies. Homeschoolers are experts at adapting materials; one thing I've learned is that none of us use products and resources exactly as written. The beauty of unit studies is that they are flexible and easily customized for individual learners, and this one is no exception. There are lots of little pieces about the dung beetle and related to the dung beetle that add up to big learning.

A topic like a beetle that uses poop for survival is interesting to my child who balks at anything that looks too much like "school". We discovered a new interest. (Chasing interests is usually successful learning.)

The study includes facts and information about and related to dung beetles presented in a fun way plus quizzes; science experiments (which we did not do because we have been cleaning and decluttering and being on call at a moment's notice to show our house for sale and I can't get out the modeling clay or egg cartons and hot glue gun); suggestions for working with students with special needs (deaf/blind); puzzles; vocab for younger children and older students; copywork in both printing and cursive. (Note to self: At some point in the near future, create a post of accommodations and compensations for use with a child with developmental delays.)

Something other reviewers might not mention: I like the font size. Font that is too small sends my homeschooler's anxiety rising - it looks like too much, too challenging. This particular study has a good amount of information on a page, but not too much, in my opinion. (I know, I know - my opinion is subjective.)

A negative for me: The copywork is entirely too small. I wish the copywork pages were arranged on larger lines for the child who finds small printing a challenge. I have to go to a copywork generator web page and retype the copywork into a lined page that is better formatted for our specific needs. I am not crazy about that extra step.

One of my favorite pages is an untitled one that lists 27 sentences that relate to one another but are not in a particular order. The page is part of a section of fables and stories, and readers learn about a fable, and then get to try one on our own, with the help of those 27 sentences. The instructions read, "Try to combine these sentences below in a logical way, grouping similar thoughts together." I customize this activity by choosing a smaller number of related sentences to group together into short paragraphs. (Wish I'd have thought of that activity myself.)

Dung Beetle offers some math (measuring length, diameter, for example), scripture and related lesson and writing with an emphasis on parts of speech, too. There are file-folder activity template and file-folder activities included (Li'l Bit doesn't like those). If your learner is like mine, you'll need to adapt some of the material or save it during a second trip through the material when your learner has matured.

There's even a section that has us imagining a conversation with a dung beetle - that's some great perspective taking and imaginary play experience!

The pdf file is full color; I sent the file to an office supply store for printing and the cost was almost $50. Switching to black-and-white reduced the cost to just under $9. You could choose to print just the copywork, or the copywork, file folder, and worksheet pages and your costs would be lower. I find it simpler to have the whole study in my hand and choose to print all of it. There are some hyperlinks in the study that require an online connection to access.

I'm impressed. I will buy more studies from The Curiosity Files. Regularly priced at $6.95 in The Schoolhouse Store, Dung Beetle is available along with three other Curiosity Files choices at the moment for a dollar. The Curiosity File selections are also available in bundles in the Schoolhouse Store.

To read Crewmates' review of this and other studies from The Curiosity Files, go HERE.

I was given a copy of The Curiosity Files Dung Beetle for review purposes. I was not paid for this review, do not benefit if you purchase the product, and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interruptions--- their insulting effect on relationships

More wisdom from Dr. Jim (Dr James D MacDonald) from Communicating Partners. I wonder if Dr Jim is referring to Anderson Cooper's interview of Dr Wakefield a few weeks ago?
Interruptions--- their insulting effect on relationships
by Dr James D MacDonald

I recently saw an interview with a high level personality and the interviewer interrupted the man 42 times in 15 minutes. That is 3 times a minute.

How would you feel if that happened to you?

I watch many children try to communicate and I see adults often interrupt them, giving them what to say, over talking, ore in some way not letting the child have his say.

Imagine what that does to a child--I find it does the following:

1. Actually tells him what the has to say is not important

2. Tells him the adult is not listening to him.

3. Tell him he is wrong.

4. Deprives him of a chance to practice what he can do.

5. Discourages him to not bother talking.

6 .Make him irritated.

7. Drives him away from the adult.

8. Makes him think he should say what others want not what he feels.

9. Teaches him to interrupt1

10. Violates the basic communication rule of

Personally, I had a relationship with a person helping me in my work. She was bright, fast, and energetic. But she frequently interrupted me and interpreted what I was saying wrong. She was so into controlling and being right that she ran over me like a locomotive. Her interruptions and failure to listen to what I really was saying, to make it simple, drove me nuts. I had to let her go even though it made me work a lot more.

Please protect your child from people who interrupt your child or control him so that he cannot be spontaneous.

A good way to encourage people to not interrupt is to urge them to let the child finish their talk or turn in interaction, then wait a little in case a little the child has more to do or say.

This also applies to your child; he or she needs to learn not to interrupt others. A simple way to encourage this is to put up your hand silently to him and continue your turn. Children often do this when we are on the pone; they need to learn that they cannot succeed. Learning to wait for when you are free is an important thing them to learn so to be accepted in society.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


"Dividing people up into one group today: us."

'facelifted' from

Chick Moorman's

facebook status

this morning

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Star, Second Show

Annie, Jr.
Show #2

The Critical Difference Between LANGUAGE and COMMUNICATION

Dr James MacDonald from Communicating Partners posted another beautiful word picture for parents that illustrates the difference between language and communication. His words remind me of the picture that Barbara Rogoff paints in Apprenticeship in Thinking when she describes the rich communication between parent and youngster before words are a currency of communication. Communication comes first in development. We missed that in our first attempt at intervention (behavioral). Thank goodness for a developmental do-over.

The critical differences between LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION

One common problem I run into all the time is the difficulty in appreciating the difference between Language and Communication

Language refers to the words,,,,,, sentences, vocabulary and all that goes into knowing what words stand for what experiences. This a cognitive issue- like do you know what a 'dog' is?

Communication, however is a social event- it requires the persons to send or receive a message- the message can be words, or sounds or movements.

Communication is the source of language, consequently the more a child communicates and interacts the more langauge he will learn . Also the more cognitively developed he will be. We all learn much more in social interaction.

The problem is that when a child is very social and communicative he learns the langauge he needs to communicate from daily interactions.

But---if the child is not easily social and communicative, the child may learn langauge but not use it for communication.

Communication comes first.

And the children will communicate most when they learn langaue that is easy and frequent to communicate.

I met a boy on the autistic spectrum recently whose mother proudly showed me four pages of words that the boy knew. He could say them to pictures. For example he know the names of over 45 animal. 20 numbers, 10 colors and so on.

When I looked at the lists, I saw only about 10 words that he was likely to use in daily life to communicate, words like Mom ,Dad, the dog's name, TV

This boy had the serious problem of having a langauge but very little communication.

Be sure to ask yourself- does my child frequently use the wrods he has; if the answer is 'no' then begin communicating with him with words he can practice and use every day such as---me, bus comes here, grandma babysits me I want toast with cinnamon---

One good way to teach a COMMUNICATIVE LANGAUGE IS TO MAKE A PHOTO BOOK- it should have phots of every day activities and things he is experiencing.

Your child's firstmost useful wrods will not be school words like numbers, letters and shapes---they will be words for things the child does frequently, the opjects he deals with, the people and places important to ;him and theexperices he has.

I see our children who are late talking as learning mainly words for school not words for social life.

So everyone, make a photo book and update it with new events and make it you most important communicating book.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eldest: The Star

Annie, Jr.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Detective Work

Today is a skating lesson day.

We skipped lessons last week. We woke to a huge snow; reporters were recommending people stay off the roads until road crews could clear ice. Eldest really needed to sleep in. So, we skipped.

Li'l Bit, who is my original skating princess, was relieved. She did not want to go to skating lessons. If you know our story, you'll know that she loves skating. Not want to go? Something's wrong.

She has complained for a couple of months that she wants to be in Basic 4. She needs two Basic 3 skills to pass her test. Big Sis passed Basic 3 and is working in Basic 4.

The past two weeks, Li'l Bit has become more and more vocal about wanting to be in Basic 4. That's a big step, developmentally, to realize she failed a test when Big Sis passed it. I've been trying to scaffold the thinking process, spotlight the work she needs to do to accomplish Basic 3, to spotlight her resilience.

Last night, the anxiety about skating lessons this morning increased in a big way. I thought all of the anxiety was about her desire to be in Basic 4. I may have been wrong.

This morning, Big Sis gave me a puzzle piece that I did not have before. She just remembered something that may have contributed to this anxiety, which is so unusual, because Li'l Bit loves skating. Two weeks ago, at their last lesson, during free skate time (when the skating students are supposed to be practicing their skills), Li'L Bit was skating very fast, racing around, having a good time, and seemed to be unaware that there were many smaller, younger, less experienced (okay, really wobbly) skaters out there, too, in a small space for free skating.

So, one of the monitors spoke to Li'l Bit.

I have no idea what the monitor said to Li'l Bit. My guess is she told her to slow down. Appropriate. But anxiety inducing in our situation.

BUT, what I think happened is that Li'l Bit interpreted that as she was in "trouble" or was being "bad".

As we inched closer to last Saturday's lesson, Li'l Bit's anxiety rose, and she became almost obsessive in talking about Basic 3 and Basic 4 again. She kept telling me she wanted to find a new place to skate.

When, last weekend, we made the decision to skip lessons, she was visibly relieved and the repetitive talking about skating stopped.

Until last night. And this morning, quite frankly, I wasn't sure I could get her to get in the car to go to lessons with us. She did accompany us, reluctantly, her anxiety still quite high, and she very uncomfortable, almost screeching at me in protest. (At one point she told me she was going to give up her dream of being a figure skater and become a snow boarder instead. Well, where we are moving, there is no snowboarding.)

I hoped we'd somehow avoid a full-out melt down (or flare-up, as Judith Bluestone more appropriately calls them).

On the way to skating lessons today, with this new information (that the monitor corrected her for skating too fast during open-skate time), I took the opportunity to talk to her about it. I explained the same way I do when we are skating for fun at an open skate somewhere else, that new skaters are shaky and wobbly and that they want people to be slower and careful around them, because they're just not skilled skaters, not skilled at changing direction, not skilled at stopping. Instead of telling her, "You're going too fast! SLOW DOWN!" which she interprets as "I'm being bad", I try to give her thinking clues to help her assess not only this situation, but future situations. When the arena is crowded, when skaters are wobbly and falling a lot, she needs to remember they're not skilled, and she needs to slow down and keep her distance. There's a perspective taking piece and a self-awareness and self-regulation and a co-regulation/coordination piece that is dynamic, because it isItalic situation dependant. A one-size fits all rule (Slow down!) doesn't fit all situations.

Simply telling her, "You're going too fast! Slow down!" robs her of the thinking skills she needs to think about her role in a free-skate situation. It's an imperative, which gives her exactly two responses, to obey or disobey, and it gives her no assessment or appraisal experience.

I don't know what the monitor said to my girl. She may have been totally wonderful and my girl still misinterpreted the situation as meaning she was being "bad". That happens.

I'm glad Big Sis remembered what happened - talking about it in the car on the way to lessons seemed to help.

I took the opportunity to talk to the director of the program. I adore her. She "gets" it. She said my way of explaining the need to slow down so that my girl gets the thinking practice and not just the rule to follow makes sense, and she'll talk to her crew about it.

A related post: I wrote about experience sharing communication (declaratives vs imperatives) HERE.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dig It! Games and Roman Town; a TOS Crew Review

Roman Town, from Dig-It! Games is a computer program that exposes users to archaeology and Roman history while playing games. And it's on sale (see end of post for sale code), too.

I like learning about ancient Rome. I think a lot of us do. It stretches the mind to try to think about it. History is important. Roman Town gives children a peek inside ancient history while using a mouse and working their ways through excavation sites on the computer screen.

This game is really neat for the right age group and for the right kind of learner. I learned a lot of information playing it, and I like how the creators use games to their advantage in way that almost sneaks information in the back door. And not just ancient Roman history, either. Science is taught, too, along with some scaffolding of thinking and detective skills that an archeologist would need in a real excavation.
As I played, I kept thinking to myself, "I did not know that!"

System Requirements for Roman Town: Windows Vista/XP/2000• CPU 800 Mhz; RAM 412MB; Hard Drive 350MB

Here's a peek at a video of the game:

Players have the option to explore a room, clicking on objects in the room to take them to a new page with information about that object. A brief fact is offered about that object, with several "learn more" options available. When the object is a game that was played during that time period, players have the option to click through to a Roman Town version of that game and play it.

Players guide workers to dig through excavation sites and unearth treasures and learn about them. There are games and puzzles to play; broken pieces to put together into artifacts, matching games, old/new, guess what doesn't belong, for some examples. Roman Town offers several different kinds of quizzes to test your knowledge after you've explored a site and a room and done some digging.
Roman Town uses children from that Roman Town to help teach by sharing their experiences, which is a good lesson in perspective taking to think about what life might have been like back then. (Individuals on the autism spectrum are usually delayed in perspective taking, and having this imaginative visual piece on the screen is an interesting way to provide experience in taking someone else's perspective.)

My typically developing middle schoolers deemed Roman Town too young for them, although the targeted grade range is right where they are, 5th-8th. For my homeschooler, who is developmentally delayed in many areas, including academics (like reading) , there is too much information to read. She's a much younger reader than her chronological age. She is overwhelmed by text and big words, and when trying to play Roman Town, she would click through to try to find the games without reading directions, game rules, or the neat facts & information. She was frustrated by it. If the written information were also read aloud as an option on Roman Town, the game might be more attractive to her, and it might reach a wider age/grade range. We will save this one for a time when she's a stronger reader and try it again. This is a "not yet" resource for our family.

Regularly priced at $39.95, there's a discount available to you at this time. Use the code TOS2011 and get Roman Town for a final price of $19.96. Offer expires February 21st.

To read about my Crewmates' experiences with Roman Town, please go HERE.

We were given a downloadable version of Roman Town for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review. I do not benefit in any way should you purchase Roman Town with (or without) the sale code.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thinking Outside The Box

We live in a state that is not known for its autism supports and services. People don't move here for autism intervention. I figured that any job transfer to a new state would be a step up in terms of all things autism.

I was wrong.

So, here we go, moving to a state where insurance is mandated to cover children up to age 12. Li'l Bit will be 12 by the time we get there. Interesting as I look for supports, the 12-18 age group is under-represented there. I wonder why? (*sarcasm*) With no insurance and no medicaid to cover that age group, there is a black hole of supports in that age range.


I wanted to go to a place that would be easier, not one that required me to do more work.

So, I am vacillating from being angry with all the changes we have to go through (that, at this point, don't appear to be positive) and being ready to think outside the box to give my girl experiences that she needs to continue to grow.

This wasteland of services actually creates an opportunity for me to think outside the box. And I have been. I have already contacted one non-profit in our destination city to ask if we can volunteer there as part of our homeschool week. What a great way to work on life skills with the relationship piece, maybe even with a some academics in the mix! They have welcomed us. I can think of two more non-profits we may be able to get involved with, too.

Perhaps we can start a Special Olympics figure skating program there, where none exists.

I think, in the long run, these outside the box activities will provide more real-life, well-rounded opportunities for us.

I have a question for you. Help me out, here. What outside-the-box ideas are YOU using with your child w/ a developmental delay or learning challenge(s)? Like our figure skating lesson opportunity, here, like homeschool co-op jump rope class here, what have you tried, what worked, what didn't work? Give me some ideas as I continue to think outside the box.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


We didn't get the blizzard totals that were predicted, but we did get a little bit of snow overnight and into the morning...

"grandma's pot roast"

I made "grandma's pot roast" from page 63 of "falling off the bone" yesterday.

The kids like pot roast better if it's cooked in the oven. There's something about a roast in the crock pot that they don't like. And, sometimes, though, no matter how long I cook a pot roast in the oven, it will turn out tough. So, this morning, I turned to Jean Anderson and her technique, because I want this one to be fork tender and falling apart.

I had a question after reading step one of the recipe, which says to "braise for two hours". I don't know whether to put the cover on the Dutch oven or not. Took me a moment to figure that out. Page xi tells me that braising involves a covered pot.

I made an adaption (which I often do when I'm cooking or baking). I used leftover brewed coffee in place of the water in the recipe. Many years ago, I took all my cookbooks with a pot roast recipe in them and laid them out on the floor of my great room where I could study them, and a good number of "southern" recipes called for brewed coffee. I've used coffee as a base for pot roast ever since. The first time that my mother saw me add coffee as I was starting a roast, she turned up her nose at it. I promised her she'd never know I used coffee when she tasted the finished product, if I could get her to try the finished roast. You'd think it would smell like coffee while it is baking, but it does not. And it doesn't taste like coffee when it's finished, either.

So, after braising it in coffee for a good chunk of time, two-hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit; then adding veggies and letting it braise (covered) for two-and-a-half hours more, the pot roast is indeed fork tender and falling apart. Delicious! Here's a picture of it:
The difficult part is remembering to start the roast early enough in the day. It's gluten free, casein free, egg free, soy free, nut free, etc etc etc.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Teeny celebration (The rangers saved her.)

Anything that my homeschooler perceives as "academic" creates a great deal of anxiety.

Because the pressure she senses creates such anxiety for her, I've really backed off a lot lately, allowing her to chase interests, look at books of her own choosing without requiring that she read to me or with me. She likes a book about Egypt that we bought at a Scholastic warehouse sale; she likes the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary For Kids, too.

Today, I sat down with her, and brought with me a stack of books. We read two of them, and a devotion from a third. (She didn't seem interested in the others; I let them go, for now.)

One of the books was a short chapter book about a girl taking riding lessons, which she helped me read. One was the book pictured at the left, Lola & Tiva, which I found at that same Scholastic warehouse sale. (Actually, every book that I have mentioned in this post except the Bible dictionary came from that Scholastic warehouse sale.)

After some her usual and annoying resisting, protesting, and interrupting me begging for a video game, Li'l Bit settled down and we read the two books and one devotional together. She got control of her begging somehow. That is worth celebrating, at least a teeny bit!

The bigger teeny celebration is for the narration she gave me afterwards. She has been able to tell the end of a story, which is more about remembering the words than it is about comprehension. I'm not looking for memorized phrases or the end of the story. I don't want to reinforce that for her.

So, today, I asked her to tell me something about Lola, the rhino in the story. Narration is tough for a kid who uses memorizaton as a compensation. I asked a simple question to give my girl something to refer to: Did she come from a pet store, I wondered aloud? She replied:

"The rangers saved her."

"The rangers saved her." A rich, amazing (non-memorized, non-line from the story) summary of how Lola came to know the little girl in the story, Tiva.

That's enough to build on. ;)

Share one of your teeny celebration moments with me. I'd love to hear from you.

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