Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dive Into Your Imagination, a TOS Crew Review

PhotobucketWe were given a DVD from Dive Into Your Imagination to review for our homeschool. Dive Into Diversity is an under water adventure of sorts, presented in short video tracks on a DVD.

Photobucket I want to say right up front:  AUTISM FRIENDLY.  My child who is on the autism spectrum has a long list of co-occurring conditions that complicate learning, and this DVD seems tailor-made for her.  The segments are short (10ish minutes).  They are very visual.  The narrator speaks slowly and the narration is, how do I describe this?, minimal.  The narrator does not cram too many facts, too much information, into a segment.  The narrator uses a speaking pace that works well for children with auditory processing challenges, who need processing time, without feeling too slow.  I have the option to TURN OFF the narration to allow us to watch just the visuals, too.  And I have a Spanish option as well (a sib at my house wants to learn Spanish - what a great way to practice!)

Yes, when we began using the DVD, I gushed over it.  Simply put - it is perfect for my learner who is a bit older who is academically delayed.  Short segments, beautiful visuals, just-right narration: sweet!

Dive into Your Imagination and Annie Crawley offer educator guides to accompany the DVDs.  The educator guides are quite comprehensive and you may choose the guide to go with your child's grade level. We dabbled with the guide for children younger than my homeschooler's actual age and with guides for her age - some of the activities for younger children are just inappropriate (she doesn't want to flop around like an invertebrate, for example).  I love that I can grab the guide for her developmental level or combine two guides to accommodate her unique learning needs.

The DVD is priced at $19.95 and samples from the videos are available here. The educator guides to accompany the DVDs are $69.95 each - BUT if you mention in the comments section that you homeschool, Annie Crawley will send the educator guides to you free. For the entire month of May and June, there will be free shipping with any order placed at in honor of my followers.

I was given the Dive Into Diversity DVD and the educator guides at no charge to me to review here. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

 To read my Crewmates' reviews of this product and other selections from Dive Into Your Imagination, please go here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Everything Food Allergy Cookbook

Pixel of Ink spotlighted a free allergen-free cookbook for the Kindle today. I don't know how long it will be free. Be sure to check the price when you click through.  Some freebies are good for just one day. 

If you do not own a Kindle product, you may download Kindle for PC for free and read from your PC or laptop.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Greek Mythology

My homeschooler is suddenly interested in Greek Mythology. I recently bought her two books on the topic at the Scholastic warehouse sale. This weekend, I added to her collection, this time a coloring book from Dover and an audio recording by Jim Weiss.  We can color while listening to the story CD.  She has some auditory processing challenges and in the past has not liked to listen to stories.  This afternoon, she listened to two stories with me while coloring.  I am encouraged.  We continue to seek unique ways to do school here with a child on the autism spectrum who has a list of other "isms".

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Employment and Autism in the News

Yesterday, the difficulty employing individuals on the autism spectrum was in the news. Go here for the story.

This morning, NPR features an individual on the autism spectrum who has a career in the making. It is a very uplifting story. Check it out: Art Provides Income for Autistic Teen
 RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant Kathy Darrow has an article addressing autism and employment here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Writing Charms

What would I do without facebook? This blog post showed up in my facebook feed with a web site and a helpful hit good enough to pass along to you:

Do you have a child who struggles with pencil grasp?  Check it out. 

Lids 'n Lizards game from Super Duper, Inc.

Super Duper, Inc. has a new game, Lids 'n Lizards,  that is marketed to speech therapists and teachers to help students work on a long list of verbal skills.
"Watch your students flip over Lids 'n Lizards! Practice articulation, categorizing, describing, and auditory and visual memory skills with these nesting lids. Place a magnet under each lid and let the flipping begin! Students name the photo object on the magnet and identify the category for each one. Plus hide the colorful lizards under the lids to surprise your students! The first student to uncover the most lizards is the winner."
I watched the video  about the game produced by Super Duper, Inc, to describe the game and to demonstrate uses for it. I was pretty excited when I saw the pieces of the game. My mind was racing as I recognized the possibilities of all things non-verbal - but none of those ideas were mentioned in the video.

So I requested a review copy.  I wanted to see this one up close.

Children on the autism spectrum often lack non-verbal foundations of communication. There are lists of non-verbal goals and objectives that developmental interventions address - and in my experience, our behavioral intervention and speech intervention missed these critically important non-verbal foundations of interaction and reciprocity.

I wish I'd had this game at home a long time ago. My mind is still considering all of the possibilities for this cute game.  Allow me to share a few ideas with you.

The first use I thought of when I saw the Lids 'n Lizards game is "follow my eyes to the prize" from one of Gutstein and Sheeley's early RDI books, a referencing activity, a gaze-following activity, and a theory-of-mind activity. With Lids 'n Lizards, I'd begin with two or three lids, put a lizard or a magnet under just one of them, and have the child follow my eyes to the lid with the surprise underneath.  For a child who is very developmentally delayed or who displays some visual challenges following my gaze, I'd separate the lids in a big way, so that I could turn my whole body in the direction of the lid with the surprise underneath.  You can use a flashlight to point to the lid to further spotlight what is in your mind.

Now, turn the tables on the child and have the child hide a lizard or magnet under one (as you cover your eyes) and show you with his/her eyes where the surprise is hidden.

Giving children the experience that an the eyes of another person contain important information is really necessary for a lot of children with developmental delays, and with 20 lids in the game, setting up a row of lids (the actual number would depend upon the competency of the child, start small, work up) with just one surprise, and have them guess.  Touch one lid, look to you for your reaction. The adult (teacher, parent, speech path, etc) can use a variety of responses - eyebrows up with a smile for yes, eyebrows down with a frown for no.  Big nod for yes; big head-shake for no.   I think the difficult part for me is remembering where I hid the lizard if I used all 20 lids!

Again, switch roles. Allow the child to hide something under a lid while you cover your eyes.  You point to each lid, look at him with your non-verbal question, "Is it under this one?" and allow him the opportunity to respond.  When the child has enough shared attention experience, the adult may 'zone out' momentarily to create a breakdown that the child has an opportunity to repair, to grab the attention of the adult back into the game.

Children on the autism spectrum sometimes are challenged to coordinate and co-regulate with others.  Lids 'n Lizards provides some neat opportunities to practice.  Load each lid with a magnet and divide the lids equally among game players.  With the adult in the lead, the adult slowly reaches to pick up a lid with the object being for the student(s) to coordinate actions with the adult, to mirror, and pick up lids together, turn them over together.  Then each student may identify the picture underneath, or tell you the sound of the first letter of the object, or whatever verbal goal you're working on.

Another non-verbal foundation involves perspective taking (more theory-of-mind).  Load the lids, put them face down, mix 'em up, and pick one, hold it up so everyone in the group can see it.   Each student gets a turn to pick a lid, show each member of the group what is inside.  A lot of kids have no idea that when you are sitting across from them, you can't see what they see in front of them. We can overcompensate for children with developmental delays in perspective taking in a way that gives them the experience that we know what they know, we see what they see. (How do I know this? We made that mistake!) An activity that is very simple, "LOOK what I picked!" as you show the object to the others in your game will give children important experience in perspective taking. You could set this one up to go one at a time, or to coordinate actions and go all at the same time, depending on the goals of your group.  Once you set up a game to spotlight an objective such as perspective taking, you, the adult, gets practice in offering opportunities, and you become more aware of opportunities during the day.  The game is a teaching tool for the adult as well.

The lids stack nicely.  A simple turn-taking game between an adult and child gives wonderful non-verbal conversation experience. You put one on the stack, I put one on the stack. Nice pattern, two roles, two active participants. There are many kids, a lot of them verbal, who are not interactive, and simple turn-taking is the foundation for verbal interaction.  

Several years ago, I had an opportunity to hear inclusion expert Richard Villa speak. He passionately described how successful they've been using students with developmental delays and learning disabilities to teach other students and how it grew both the 'student-teacher' and the 'student' in big ways.  While we, at my house, are using the game  more for the verbal ideas described in the video now, (my child is referencing and attention sharing and attention shifting at higher levels, now), I cannot wait for my younger nieces and nephews to visit, because that will give my homeschooler, the child on the autism spectrum, new opportunities to be the 'teacher' using Lids 'n Lizards and experience in new ways all of the non-verbal foundations we continue to grow.

If you have toddlers at home, please know that there are small pieces in this game, possibly choking hazards.

The lids are sturdy.  I was concerned that we could bend them and break them, which is one reason I wanted to see the game in person.  My kid could rip a board book in two when she was a toddler. I wanted sturdy. These are sturdy.  The magnets are colorful. I was concerned that we'd be able to peel the picture off. I have a kid that might do that, too.  They seem to be well attached.

Lids 'n Lizards is priced at $39.95. A set of 20 additional lids may be purchased for $19.95. I give it a whole bunch of thumbs up - Lids 'n Lizards is a versatile game that offers lots of opportunities to practice a wide variety of non-verbal and verbal objectives.

Disclaimer:  Super Duper, Inc. sent me a Lids 'n Lizards game to review for you at no charge to me. I was not paid for this review. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The process is beginning.  It will be a 10 (ish) minute marching band show when it is complete in a few months. I arrived at rehearsal early enough to watch the last five minutes today. 

Watching these young people grow and mature and build a show from nothing to something amazing is so much fun!

Homeschool Library Builder; a TOS Crew Review

This is my third informational review for Homeschool Library Builder

Here the first review. Here is the second one. 

Homeschool Library Builder, co-owned by two homeschoolers, sells new and used books at reasonable prices.  The site divides books by category and there is a search feature for folks looking for a specific title. 

Things I don't like - yes, there are some:  I wish the search feature could tell me which books come from a pet-free (CAT-free!) home, which books come from a smoke-free home, and I would like a "wordless book" category.  When homeschoolers post items for sale on internet lists or at curriculum sales, they usually indicate when the items come from a pet-free and smoke-free home. This is important to us.  Ordering from HLB means my kid may react to cat dander on a book from a home with cats.  Not good at all.

Head over to the site in May 2012 and get 25% off your purchase.

I have ordered books several times from HLB and the service has been good and the books arrived in the condition described on the web site.  

I head to the HLB site when looking for a particular title or when I get an email from them about dollar bins. I love a bargain! :)

Here (quoted from HLB promotional materials) are the benefits to becoming a member (no purchase required):
Sales and promotions are offered each month. You will know when we offer 25% off sales, free shipping dates, special event promos (such as our annual Super Bowl Sunday 40% off extravaganza), or featured products. And you won't want to miss Spotlight on the Season, our homeschool-friendly calendar, marking holidays, celebrations, and "national days," with corresponding activities and lesson plans!
Want to earn free books quickly? As an HSLB member, you earn one Book Point for each dollar you spend on merchandise.  Fifteen Book Points equal $1 in your account to use toward future purchases. The more you purchase, the more you earn! Earn even more Book Points when you refer friends or promote HSLB virally through your website or blog!  Your Book Points never expire!
  • Book Search
Sometimes a recommended book can be elusive. We are happy to try to locate your item, at no extra cost. We enjoy a good hunt and are delighted when we locate a hard-to-find treasure!
Are you a homeschool family with a cottage industry, a creative product, or an online service? If so, we would love to help you get the word out through our website! The cost is absolutely FREE! Simply submit your product for review. If it meets our Marketplace Standards and Guidelines and will serve the homeschooling community, your information will be added to the top of our HSLB Marketplace page. All we ask is that HSLB customers receive at least a 10% discount off the purchase price.
  Sales of books purchased from the "Helping Hand" category go directly toward  supporting HSLB's child adopted from Compassion International.
Disclaimer: I was not given a product to review; instead, I was offered a 10% discount off an HLB purchse during the month of May for posting this review. I was not paid for this review.  I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

To read the reviews of my Crewmates' about Homeschool Library Builder, please go here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review: Siblings of Children with Autism

Woodbine House sent me a surprise in the mail: Siblings of Children with Autism, third edition, by Sandra L. Harris, Ph.D & Beth A Glasberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D, from the "Topics in Autism" series. I was offered the book at no charge to me and this is not a paid review.

I have had the opportunity to attend two conferences for parents and sibs of children with disabilities featuring SibShops' Don Meyer, Mom and Advocate Jan Moss, and actress Geri Jewell, and already know a lot of the information in the book.

If you have children who are sibs of a child with autism, and you want to know more about the sibling side, Siblings of Children with Autism provides a lot of the same information as a conference, except you can read the book at home or in a waiting room instead of traveling to a conference.  Priced at $21.95, the book is a 164 page paperback that will fit in a lot of purses or tote bags for the reading autism moms do in waiting rooms when our kids are in occupational or some other therapy.

I find research on sibs to be both interesting and helpful.  I found comfort in learning that sibs often take one of two roles, the 'good' sib and the 'angry' sib (the one who acts out for attention), and not just in families living with autism.  If you've not done any research about siblings, about what they believe (a lot worry about catching autism) or about adult sibs, you may find this book really helpful. 

The press release summary of what Siblings of Children with Autism is worth sharing here:
*research findings comparing sibs in families where autism is absent vs present
*what a typically developing sib understands autism to be and how that perception changes as he ages
*how parents can explain autism to their NT children
*how to improve family communication
*how to strike a balance between inclusion and separateness within the family
*how to support play between children
*how having a sib with autism may affect roles and choices as an adult
The case studies and comments from other parents are helpful, too.  Knowing that others are going through similar situations is comforting to me. You will probably see yourself within the pages, too.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Homonyms for Me 1-2-3

I am always on the lookout for resources with a tactile and kinesthetic component to use in our homeschool setting. Super Duper is a company that tends to have lots of choices for the learner who needs touch and movement in order to process and learn.

Homonyms for Me 1-2-3 is a creatively designed card game that uses a "secret decoder" flashlight to provide the correct answer.  Each card features different words that have more than one meaning, with three fill-in-the-blank sentences. Three word choices are provided beneath the three fill-in-the-blank sentences.  The job of the student is to choose the word that completes all of the sentences on the card.  After the student makes a choice, the student may shine the special decoder flashlight on the word choices to see if he/she made the correct word choice.

Right off the bat, the game is attractive to a child who doesn't like "school" because of the way cool flashlight decoder.  The learner with unique needs, developmental delays, an aversion to all things school may be drawn to this particular game just because of the flashlight.  Mine is.

The 60 cards are slightly larger than playing cards and are laminated so that they are sturdy. They come in a tin box that reminds me of a smaller version of the lunch box I took to school when I was a child. The game is priced at $24.95.

Each card contains just one task, which is really attractive to our situation, because a long worksheet sends my child's anxiety soaring.  We sit down and complete one or two cards at a time, she feels successful and not overwhelmed, and she learns.  She can sit down with the game alone and flash the light on the cards to fill in the blanks with the correct answer before reading the questions, too, so that she doesn't feel "quizzed".  (We still see what I describe as post-traumatic stress from all the discreet trial where she was required to have the one-right-answer all of the time.)

If you are looking for resources that are outside the traditional worksheet box, I recommend this one.  We have had a good experience with it.  The most difficult part of the game is getting the batteries into the decoder flashlight correctly if you spill them when you are trying to remove the protective strip from the battery to make the decoder work. (After I spilled the battery, I learned that there is a "how to" video here:

Super Duper sent me the Homonyms for Me 1-2-3 game to review for you at no cost to me. I was not paid for this review.  I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Stars & Stripes as far as you could see in either direction...

Rest in peace, Soldier.
Thank you for giving your life for our freedom.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Impulse Buy

Old Navy stores have a variety of trinkets and junk by the checkout lanes. One item caught my eye recently and I bought it on impulse:

My homeschooler is using the stickers to illustrate some stories this morning. (She just asked me how to spell "believe".)


Definitely not junk.  I thought it might keep her busy during her brother's baseball games.  I never thought about it as a potential homeschool resource for a child who is on the autism spectrum (a typically developing child may enjoy using the stickers as illustrations as well). We could compose some stories together, or she and a friend could compose some stories together. 

Why didn't I think to buy several of them and the blue version, too?? (smacking hand to forehead) 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: The PRT Pocket Guide

Brookes Publishing sent me a book I was not expecting. I received a copy of Robert L Koegel and Lynn Kern Koegel's latest book, "The PRT Pocket Guide", at no charge to me, to review.

Those of you who follow my blog know that behavioral intervention made my child worse, and I am not a fan of behaviorists who are pure, who view everything via a lens of behavior while throwing anything and everything else (sensory, development, reflex integration, diet, biomed) away.

Right off the bat, I have an issue with it.  The Koegels imply that dietary intervention is "snake oil" on page 9 of the introduction. They call it the "casein-free diet", which, for starters, is flat out wrong. (There is no such thing as a "casein-free diet" for autism.) My child is one of the responders to diet, we have medical evidence to back it up, and the behaviorists who were working with us at the time of the implementation of the diet and who saw what I'd describe as "infraction behavior" (that is followed by eczema) would back me up when I say my child needs to be on a special diet and so do other children.  Any professional, no matter how beloved or famous, who discourages a trial of dietary intervention plummets on my list of people to trust.

Absence of proof is not absolute proof.  While I discourage parents from relying on internet anecdotes from other parents when choosing intervention, and while I strongly encourage parents to do lots and lots of research, I, from experience, have seen intervention and therapies helping families years ahead of the scientific studies to show the progress children make in those therapies.

Our experience with all things behavioral got us everything 'they' promised would not happen.  Robotic. Prompt dependent.  A one-sided word machine.  Our child was considered a success. We checked off lots of things on the ABLLS.  None of it translated into the togetherness I wanted, none of it translated into reciprocity or conversation, none of it translated into the ability to be mainstreamed at school.

When our behavioral program fell apart and we had a developmental opportunity fall into our laps simultaneously, we learned that our child had zero non-verbal foundations of communication to support the word-machine.  No wonder she wasn't interactive.

We set about going back for the non-verbal pieces we missed under the direction of our behaviorist - and it has made all the difference.

We set about making ourselves "possible" (a Dr James D MacDonald term) for our child to interact with successfully - at non-verbal levels - and conversation and the verbal interaction pieces began falling into place without working on them directly.

"The PRT Pocket Guide" focuses on question asking, on verbal skills.  It spend a lot of time discussing motivation and reinforcers and natural environments and data collection from a behavioral perspective.

When we made ourselves socially "possible",  from a developmental perspective, my daughter's motivation came from her own success with us. No need to target teaching her question asking.  It emerged on its own.

The examples in the book bother me.
Page 168: "Rose is a 2-year-old girl who is nonverbal....Roses's goal: Increase the number and variety of expressive verbal one word utterances or communicative attempts in response to a verbal model."
I want to know - how is her non-verbal interaction. Is it rich with reciprocity?  We don't know. The Koegels are fixated on words and talk.

 On page 169,
"Julian's goals: Increase spent time engaged with peers at recess and the number of questions he asks during social conversations with his peers."
My kids in that age range do not spend a lot of time asking questions of one another. How do I know? I pay attention. They spend a great deal of time relating experiences or retelling fun experiences they had together, or planning an experience they want to have in the future.

We saw "success" with behavioral programming. My child learned everything we targeted.  But it didn't translate into two-way communication, interaction, reciprocity.  Your behavioral programming is only as good as the goals and objectives, and my experience has taught me to work from a developmental list, not a behavioral one.  I suppose my definition of "pivotal" starts with non-verbal foundations of communication, and I can't tell by reading this book that the Koegels agree with that. A parent who uses this book risks skipping important developmental foundations and going straight to teaching a child to ask questions when there is little to no interaction and reciprocity at non-verbal levels.  My guess is that fans of behavioral intervention will adore this book.
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