Sunday, January 22, 2012


A family wedding. A church nursery. And my kid looks like the teacher here. Engaged. Playing. Actively participating. I love it! A little victory.

We Choose Virtues, a TOS Crew Review


We received a really useful and interesting review item for our situation homeschooling a tween on the autism spectrum.

We Choose Virtues is a company that produces materials that assist parents and teachers in teaching character in children. We were given a set of Virtue Clue Cards to review. The 12 clue cards are the size of business cards (but they feel slightly more sturdy than a standard business card); they come in a clear plastic sleeve that velcros closed. The 13th card is the introductory card that asks, "Can YOU use your Virtues the whole day? I believe you can!"

The virtues: obedient, patient, honest, self-controlled, forgiving, diligent, helpful, perseverant, kind, gentle, content, attentive.

I have a lot of thoughts about the little cards.

For typically developing kids, I think they are a creative and fun (and probably quite effective) way to teach virtues, to work on relationships with self and others. You should be able to use them as is, straight from the package. They're priced right - regularly priced at $7.95, on sale for $5.99.

For some children w/ special needs, the little cards need to be used with special care and caution. I sometimes hear (more often than I would like) a parent or teacher telling a child, "If you're good, we'll do X when this class is over." For one little boy, it was to run up and down the Sunday School halls, something he loved to do, and something that gave him enough sensory input to get him through the next activity. What I DON'T hear is a description of what "good" is. And when the child doesn't match the expectations for "good", the child automatically is "bad". A failure. I don't like that.

Some children with special needs have little self-control over themselves at certain times. Mine struggles when she is getting sick, is sick, or when she is hungry (probably a blood sugar issue). Her neurology does not work for her some days. She simply is unable to obey right away or wait with a smile or keep her "wanter" under control.

So we are very deliberately using these cards in a way that they are not "absolutes" (and I do think the cards are intended for this kind of use). We are picking one and spotlighting when my girl does well with one without calling her "good" when she does it and "bad" when she does not. In fact, a lot of the time at my house, these cards are used for a preceding step - for allowing her to acknowledge that she has a choice. It's an awareness piece. A self-awareness piece The behavior piece - the piece that she has a choice - is a second or even third step for us.

I like the way the virtues are listed individually for us and I like the opportunities we have to spotlight them in context in naturally occurring events.

A downloadable coloring book reinforces the info on the cards:


And there is a character assessment for family members to use for the awareness piece. (Click on the picture to take you to the assessment.)  I do not like the chart for the purpose of judging a child.  I would consider using this only as a child's own self-assessment for thinking about purposes (self-appraisal, past experience, forethought).

I was concerned that the virtue cards would create anxiety in my kid in terms of "being good" or "being bad". The parent has the responsibility to keep from labeling the child that way while using these little goodies to turn more responsibility from the parent to the child in terms of thinking about behavior. And I like that.

We Choose Virtues sent me a set of Virtue Clue Cards at no cost to me in order to review here. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A First

We did it.

We (my husband and I) left the kids with a sitter overnight.

A first.

Hubby and I have attended a black tie event in January in Detroit for the past 10 or so years with his co-workers and their spouses. And this year, we flew up north for the event, a reception that preceded it, and a fancy dinner after. We flew home the next morning. We were gone just over 24 hours.

The North American International Auto Show Charity Preview is a black tie event that raises money for a list of childrens' charities all in one evening.

We had a trusted sitter.

Was I nervous anyway? Anxious? Yes and yes.

And we all had a great time! Maybe the kids needed a break from Mom and Dad, too.

Monday, January 9, 2012

iPad Alternative

Linda Hodgdon has a post up about using a Leap Pad in place of an iPad. Go here to read about it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Would you rather?

Air hockey?????



Thursday, January 5, 2012

Not Just for Homeschoolers

Homeschool conventions.

I've gotten save-the-date and registration info from two organizations this week.

The exhibit hall of a homeschool convention is a wonderful place to scout resources, whether your are a full-time homeschooler or a part-time homeschooler.

If you are the parent of a child with special learning needs, and that child goes to a public or private school, chances are good that you supplement what that school is doing at night, on weekends, and in the summers.

If you're a homeschooler, you are supplementing all of the time.

If you've not checked out the vendor hall at a homeschool convention, you may not know about some products and resources that would fill a need at your house.

Products from therapy catalogs are expensive. I have found resources at homeschool conventions that are similar to items in therapy catalogs that are much more affordable.

And, interestingly, quite a number of resources marketed to homeschoolers have a visual, a tactile, and a kinesthetic component built right in.

Most vendors at a homeschool convention offer some sort of discount. Some discounts are quite good.

Find a convention near you (look here to start); study the vendor list (here's an example), which means click through to vendor web sites, look for vendor presentations online (sometimes you'll find a video), look at the convention speaker list to see which vendors are presenting, too, and preview them before the convention. Narrow down the math products or reading products or writing products or science products so that you maximize your time in the massive vendor hall. The vendor hall is where you can look at products up close and where you can ask questions about them. If you are really curious about an item, be sure to check the speaker list to see if that vendor is presenting in a workshop.

Be sure to check out the list of speakers. Google their names. You may find a speaker who is an expert in an area where your child has learning challenges. As I browsed the Cincinnati convention web site just now, I found a presenter who is new to me: Hmmm. If I am unable to hear her in person, I need to order an audio cd of one of her presentations, I think.

If you plan to attend one of the gigantic conventions, do your speaker/presenter homework a little at a time, between now and then, so you maximize your time there. Sometimes, as you search, you'll find a presentation online. Listen to it now and you can skip that speaker at the convention. Important note: Find out as soon as you arrive to the convention which speakers will NOT be recorded and sold on audio CD- you'll want to make sure to attend those in person if they are on your must-see list. And check out the multiple-CD discount, know the numbers for the discount.

If you are like me, you will have to plan to miss some presentations, to buy the audio cd to hear later, in order to have enough time to shop in the exhibit hall.

Be sure to mark a second choice presentation and sit by the door so that if your first choice turns out to be something different from what you expected, you can slip out and attend the second choice presentation.

Note to self: Get to work researching math products, the ones that come with manipulatives. I found a new-to-me vendor while browsing that web site:

If you get an opportunity to hear Carol Barnier, Melinda Boring, Dianne Craft, or Tammy Glaser, go! The Human Calculator is a fun presentation, too. (And if you don't find speakers that interest you, look for an "exhibit hall only" pass, which may save you $.)

My two cents worth,

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Follow-up: I don't have to stay with mom because she keeps up with me.

"Out of rational fear, many of us tell the child (usually non-verbally) I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU NO MATTER WHAT. And it can be just that unnecessary 'taking care' that keeps the child in a learned helplessness, or as I prefer, a LAZY mode of operating."

"Think of your job now as catching yourself when you are about to do for your child when he needs to do for himself... "

--Dr. James D. MacDonald from Communicating Partners
How does a parent begin to hand over some responsibility for the child's attention to the child? (See this blog post from a couple of days ago.) How do you get him from "lazy" (passive) mode to active participant mode?

Remember, functions like attention begin in physical, manipulative mode, first.

Think of an infant. Her early experiences with joint attention involve human faces, usually Mom, Dad, grandparents, sibs. Mom waits for the baby's eyes to meet hers, Mom smiles, freezes and waits (processing time), baby reciprocates with a smile. (I blogged about an a-ha moment here.)

After some days, weeks, even months experiencing and practicing reciprocity and turn-taking and interaction with faces and perhaps noises, the child begins to notice objects that the adult attends to. And the adult begins to spotlight objects that the child attends to. The shared attention is focused very much on physical, concrete objects, between-you-and-me, with one object (a block, a rattle, a teddy bear, maybe) between the two of you. The baby gets experience shifting attention between Mom and the object and back to Mom again. The Mom paces the interaction in a slowed-down, exaggerated way so that the baby takes her own action shifting her own attention and gaze. The baby is an active participant, not a prompted passive participant.

Mom offers the toy to the baby, silently, extending it within the baby's reach, waiting for the baby to take her own action to get it.

The early foundations involve lots of experiences for the baby to take her own actions in an interaction with an adult. This is "manipulative mode" for what will become "mental mode" and "abstract mode" as development progresses. First joint attention is on all things concrete and visible. Later joint attention is on ideas, the unseen.

So, what do you do with an older child on the autism spectrum who has lots of words and "talk" but is not responsible for his own attention with yours?

I have blogged about it several times under the label of "learned helplessness". Turn off the words and "talk". Communicate non-verbally and richly. Slow down. Wait for your child to turn his own head, to reach his own arm out, to take his own action. Look for opportunities that allow your child to shift his own gaze and attention. Want examples? Silently hold open his coat and wait for him to notice and insert his own arm, or hold his sock and then his show and wait for him to insert his own foot. Silently, hold out his lunch plate and wait for him to shift his own gaze, turn his own head, and notice and accept it with his own hand. While cleaning up toys (I have Lego or blocks in mind as I type), hold the container as you dump toys in, offer it to him to give him an opportunity to take his own action to scoop up some toys and dump them in.

Around the house, have him join you when you move about. Have him hold one side of the laundry basket on the way to the laundry room. If he gets ahead of you on the way to the laundry room, stop the action. Stop. Silently. Wait for him to notice and return to you. Then begin moving forward again.

These beginner non-verbal co-regulated experiences are the building blocks for the types of practice and experience children need to play and participate in Sunday School, pre-K, kindergarten, play dates, etc. They're the foundation of what we think of as "social skills". They're incredibly important.

Please. Learn from the mistakes we made. Don't miss those critical pre-speech, non-verbal foundations of interaction.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kindle for PC

If you do not own a Kindle or a Nook or other e-reader, but have a laptop or PC, hop over to and install Kindle for PC.


Amazon offers a large selection of free e-books. Most of the classics are free to download and Amazon offers short-term freebies daily.

A quick search has given me three web sites that list free e-books along with deeply discounted e-books. I'm guessing there are more (I simply have not found them yet). and

Not too long ago, I was blessed to get a free copy of Autism's Hidden Blessings for my Kindle for PC e-reader.

You never know what might pop up on the free list to grab on any given day. Cookbooks. Books about autism. Historical fiction. Living books. Children's books.

I don't have to stay with mom because she keeps up with me.

My daughter began participating in a research project a few weeks ago. We drive to a hospital for a study that looks at a possible relationship between speech and sensory.

Twice in a row, we have seen the student whose session is just before my daughter's session. He's an adorable little boy at a pre-k or kindergarten age.

As soon as his session is complete, he is directed by Mom to get into his coat and when his coat is on, he rushes to the elevator. This study takes place on the top floor of a tall building. Mom can't pause to talk to the researcher because she has to run after this child.

"I don't have to stay with Mom because she keeps up with me."

Like my daughter at that age, he has lots of words and "talk". (He is charmingly conversational. My daughter was not.)

But he has little idea what is in his mother's mind. And he has no sense of responsibility for self in staying near her with what is in her mind (that Mom wants him to wait for her to go to the elevator together).

He is very competent with the routine. He knows the path to the elevator, knows how to get on one if the door opens. He probably knows how to push the button to call the elevator. All of those are skills of independence. (My "sidebar" question is: What about interdependence?)

And should he get on one of the six elevators going down in that bank of elevators, he would expect his mom to deal with it, to find him.

Yes, he is competent with what the routines are. But not as competent with how people are.

I had a child very much like that little boy. We were heavy into behavioral intervention. And it wasn't until my behavioral program fell apart and a developmental opportunity dropped into my lap that I found that we could help her experience the interdependence, the attachment and joint attention she needed in order to stay with me, to hold some responsibility for herself, and we did it without addressing it explicitly in a program.

That still boggles my mind sometimes. When our behavioral program fell apart, we were introduced to the concept of interdependence, what it is, why it is important, how to grow it in the order it happens in typical development.

The same experience and practice, the same skill that the child needs in order to stay with Mom until she is ready to leave is the same skill he needs to stay with his class at school. It's the basis for collaboration in the workplace. (One of IDEA's objectives is future employment. Shouldn't interdependence be a focus in special education? It should be. But it is not.)

And watching the mom and researcher rush to the bank of elevators to grab the boy before he can descend without them reminds me of something I read about attachment quite a few years ago.

It is worth sharing again:
from "Hold on to Your Kids WHY PARENTS NEED TO MATTER MORE THAN PEERS" by Gordon Neufeld, PhD and Gabor Mate' MD.

From page 65: "When the child experiences his need for proximity in physical terms -- as very young children do -- attachment serves as an invisible leash." ...

"For the most part, however, this attachment programming gives us great freedom. Instead of having to keep our eye on the child continuously, we can afford to take the lead and trust in his instincts to make him follow." ...

from page 66:

"The child's instincts to keep close to us can get in our way and frustrate us. We do not welcome the work of attachment when it is separation we crave, whether for purposes of work, school, s*x, sanity, or sleep. Our society is so topsy-turvy that we may actually come to value the child's willingness to separate more than her instincts for closeness. Unfortunately, we cannot have it both ways. Parents whose young children are not properly attached face a nightmare scenario just keeping the child in plain sight. We should be thankful for the assistance attachment provides in holding our children close. If we had to do all the work, we would never be able to get on with the sundry other duties that parenting involves. We need to learn to parent in harmony with this design rather than fight against it."

# # #

another excerpt:

"The desire for sameness with important attachment figures leads to some of a child's most significant and spontaneous learning experiences, even though closeness, not learning, is the underlying motivation. Such learning occurs without either the parent having much conscious intent of teaching or the child of studying. In the absence of attachment, the learning is labored and the teaching forced. Think of the work that would be involved if each word the child acquired had to be deliberately taught by the parent, each behavior consciously shaped, each attitude intentionally inculcated. The burden of parenting would be overwhelming. Attachment accomplishes these tasks automatically, with relatively little effort required from either parent or child. Attachment provides power-assisted learning--how delightful it is, many people have found, to study a new language when in love with the charming instructor! Whether we know it or not, as parents and teachers we rely heavily on attachment to make models out of us."

page 67 of Hold On to Your Kids, Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, by Gordon Neufeld, PhD and Gabor Mate' MD
Interdependence (and attachment) are so important. Too often, in autism intervention, we sacrifice interdependence on the altar of independence. And we don't have to do that. Nor should we.

If you are a parent in the middle of heavy-duty autism intervention, don't forget the non-verbal foundations of attachment, interdependence and joint attention first, the way they occur in typical development.

My two cents worth.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Scholastic Warehouse Sale Finds

We continue to chase interests in our homeschool. My reluctant reader needs books that interest her, that draw her in, that tell her more about a subject she likes, to give her the practice and experience that she needs.

And last month, I found a series of books that is new to me, a series that will allow us to chase some interests and address some academics as well. I love a two-fer.

Scholastic Warehouse Sales are a great resource. (Go HERE to find one near you. Be sure to sign up for email updates so that you will be notified when a sale is happening in your area.)

I have been to two Scholastic Warehouse Sales in two states. I could stay for hours and browse the books. Most books are 50% off.

I found a group of books that is new to me. The book about The Beatles caught my eye. You can see it here. My girl is a rock-and-roll fan and she likes The Beatles. There were quite a few similar books shelved with the book about The Beatles, including one about Rosa Parks, another about Barack Obama; Marco Polo; Abraham Lincoln; Walt Disney; Albert Einstein. There is a long list of titles inside the back covers of the books; they are published by Grosset & Dunlap, and the web site listed on the back cover is Amazon has them.

I gave her "Who Were The Beatles" for Christmas. We're home again after a trip to my parents' house, and tonight, she picked up that book and read two chapters aloud. She learned about John and Paul in those two chapters.

I love it. I hope her interest continues.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Free e-Class: 8 WEEKS TO REAL FOOD

I really enjoy telling you about resources, and I REALLY ENJOY sharing FREEBIES with you.

Here's a free resource from a great company for you.

Vintage Remedies
is offering a free 8-week e-Class called 8 Weeks to Real Food.

I own several books from Vintage Remedies (including Kitchen Herbals and Vintage Remedies 4 Girls and I have a Jessie Hawkins lecture on CD and I have attended her presentations at homeschool conventions. She helped my daughter and me a couple of months ago when my girl was going through a tough eczema flare-up. Jessie is a wonderful teacher and a wealth of information.)

I signed up for the class.

Check it out.

Go HERE to register.
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