Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review: Autism Every Day

Teacher, autism trainer and mother -Alyson Beytien has performed a magic act.  I don’t mean raising three boys with autism and not going insane. I mean writing an entertaining book about the challenges and joys of raising her unique and lovable guys while making readers LOL (… “laugh out loud”) and  wonder -    HDSDI (how does she do it!).
 

“Autism Every Day” is Alyson’s story of a life filled with the many acronyms familiar to every parent of a child with special needs, the funny and not so funny experiences that make her laugh and cry and the strategies she has learned through her training and on the job parenting. I use the author’s first name because readers will quickly feel like they know Alyson. She is the shopper in Walmart trying to diffuse a tantrum, the parent who cries at IEP meetings and friend who dances next to her child in public to explain away his unusual body movements (it’s a family dance she says!!).   
Pages saturated with love and humor are also pungent with words of wisdom such as:
·      Visual schedules are life savers. They indicate what will happen, when and how long it will last (i.e. doctor’s visit, shopping, Christmas dinner)
·      children with autism need to be taught flexibility by changing things up just enough to be tolerable but not so much as to cause a meltdown (hint: choice cards can help with this).
·        recognize a child’s unique expression of love-such as creating physical contact by backing into a person
·      Use advice from your most trusted supporters even if the majority opinions differ
·   Bring a yummy treat to an IEP meeting to set the tone of teamwork (or one might say- bribery)
Readers won’t realize that they are learning 150 strategies since they are cleverly tucked into funny anecdotes later to be summarized at the end of the chapter. My favorite is the toilet training competition told by Ron the sportscaster with minute by minute descriptions of match-ups between son and mother in the battle of the bathroom. I am happy to report three successful toilet training contests –mom won with the aid of action figures, candy, dad demonstration and a toilet vigil.
As an occupational therapist and mother of a young man with Aspergers syndrome I was familiar with the sensory and behavioral strategies described in this book. But even those of us long enmeshed in the world of autism will love this book for its humor, honesty and poignant stories. For parents and other family members new to the bewildering world of autism your friend Alyson will remind you that every family is unique and wonderful. Now the rest of the world needs to learn this, too!
Use the code "Pedia" to get 15% discount.





 

 

 


 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Best Kind of different

I wrote this review a while ago......just loved this book so sharing again on my blog!


A voice for parents seeking support and validation
During the 1950's parents were blamed for the apparently aloof behaviors manifested by children with autism. There was even a term for this- "refrigerator moms" who were viewed as so cold- they made their children antisocial. Shonda Schilling's story of how she was viewed resounds this familiar theme. Her son has the form of autism called "Asperger's syndrome" where the child typically has average or above average intelligence accompanied by struggles to communicate, process sensory information, focus and control impulses. Schilling's descriptions of how other's have viewed her as a failing parent, who can't set limits or control her child reflect the misguided concept that a child on the spectrum- a child with a neurological disorder whose behaviors make others uncomfortable is the fault of the parent. Many readers will relate to these experiences and appreciate Schilling's voice for parents experiencing the frustrations, guilt, shame and anger of raising a disabled child.

Packed full of Information
Readers will find it fascinating and shocking that with the increasing awareness and prevalence of autism- medical and educational professionals did not make a diagnosis or referral for services until their son Grant was ten years old. Schilling not only shares with her readers the emotional roller coaster she went through upon learning that Grant's behaviors were not his fault. She inspires them to advocate and find the resources they need to help their children and themselves. This involved explaining to coaches that winning isn't everything and children with learning differences deserve the opportunity to play and be part of a team even if they are not an asset to winning. Schilling discovers that parents should not be embarrassed by a disabled child's behavior- it is not a reflection of one's parenting style or foibles. Finding the right summer camp-one designed for children exactly like Grant enabled him to engage in the childhood rite of summer camp and with supports make friends. Schilling also learned that no parent should go through the special education process alone. If the spouse is away -find a friend who can not only provide emotional support but help advocate.

A Book Occupational Therapists Can Appreciate
Occupational therapists and other readers will love learning about how a sensory diet packed with vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation helped Grant control his behaviors and optimize learning. A weighted bean bag on his lap helped him to remain calm and the Alert Program for self regulation helped him know what energy level was appropriate for different situations. Schilling learned that her son slammed his body against others because he sought out deep pressure stimulation. Understanding his sensory needs helped her to understand and address his behaviors.

The Role of Animals
Schilling confirmed something that many parents, therapists, teachers and individuals with Asperger's syndrome have long known-animals often play an important role by providing an unconditional love, sensory stimulation and opportunities for communication void of misinterpretation and idioms. Author and lecturer Temple Grandin has long written about the importance of animals during her childhood leading up to her successful career as animal scientist. The schilling household has included numerous dogs, fish, lizards, turtles and hamsters. Like many other individuals on the autism spectrum, Grant gravitates towards pets and experiences a sensory based connection.

A Highly Recommended Book
I highly recommend this book not only for its quality writing and entertainment value- but because reading it gives insight into the inner resources a parent must discover in order to survive. Being married to a famous ball player probably played a pivotal role in finding a publisher for this memoir. But readers will be delighted with her brutal honesty, openness and optimism. This is a book that offers support, inspiration and basic information for all readers affected by autism.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Manipulation Snow Man

I've been thinking for a while how a large white orange juice container can be cut up to make a snowman.

I cut into one side to create the 3 snow balls.

Then I cut a circle from a different color bottle.

Punch a few wholes into the circle and background so that the holes align. I took my leather shears and made the holes extra big so that they would be easy to lace. I drew a face on the blue circle.
I attached the cord to one of the holes so that it won't get lost and will be easy to begin lacing.

I realized that the cord was too long and cut it shorter, attached tape to the end to make lacing easy and it is now long enough to lace through the 4 holes.
I cut two more circles to make buttons. I punched holes in the green buttons shown here and the snowman so that I could lace them into place. then I cut a slit in the red fabric. It is soft and stretch and easy to pull on or off the "button".




For some reason the photo won't rotate correctly but you can see the completed snow man with a scarf tied around his neck and a screw cap hat.

So now- to make the snowman children need to button, screw a cap, tie a knot on the scarf and lace the face.

It is easier to open and remove the clothing than attach. This activity can be used with children between 2-5 years of age, but adapted according to their abilities. Some children may assist with lacing the last hole, completing the button, pulling the ends of the cord to tie the knot on the scarf or giving a twist to the hat. Over time they will do more and more of the steps independently.

Some children will find it easier to undress the snowman.

I attached a container inside to hold the clothing articles and opening and closing the lid provides another great opportunity to manipulate.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I just decided to sell this book that has been on my shelf for decades.....Enjoy....
Here is a photo of the paper clips attached that are inserted into straws to construct various shapes and objects described in the book.

Attaching the two clips is a great motor planning activity and inserting each into the end of a straw works on manipulation skills and then designing what to build works on visual perceptual skills. Great fun!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Visual Techniques for Developing Social Skills: A Book Review


Visual Techniques for Developing Social Skills is not only a useful tool for teachers, therapists (and  parents, too) who want concrete directions on how to provide social skills training but  is also a thought provoking description of how social deficits impact lives of  children with high functioning autism and asperger’s syndrome.  As an occupational therapist and mother of a young adult with asperger’s syndrome I appreciate Rebecca Moyes’ emphasis on addressing these issues in the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) in the same nonjudgmental manner one would treat dyslexia or coordination problems. 

Using skills gained as a teacher, author, parent and presenter, Moyes has organized the chapters in logical, skill building sequence beginning with an introduction that explains

·         why social skill building activities and lesson are essential

·         how to be positive using reinforcement, utilizing a child’s strengths  and understanding the important difference between incompetent and noncompliant behaviors

·          the logistics of creating groups that include both children with disabilities and typically developing role models

Social skills training begins with learning about interpersonal interactions and I love the activities designed to promote eye contact, maintain appropriate personal space and respect for other’s belongings.  As the book’s title suggests many visual strategies are described- such as a game involving looking at a sticker placed between someone’s eyes to promote approximate eye contact and hoola hoops that enable students to see and feel socially acceptable personal space. Moyes actually describes an eclectic approach that includes

·         Reading/listening to social stories

·         Role playing

·         Games

·         Use of videotaping

I like the frequent use of contrast to get across a concept.  For example, Moyes might suggest that one child lean across another student’s desk to demonstrate an intrusion into personal space.  

Lessons related to developing communication skills involve handling objects such as a colander to explain how children need to filter their words. Speedometers, scales, visual schedules and traffic lights are other visual strategies used to teach about speech volume, speed, prosody and perseveration. 

The last section about working successfully in groups may be the most thought provoking because this is an area where many children on the autism spectrum struggle. Reading this reminded me of when my son had been required to work on school group projects. This created a great deal of anxiety because he wanted a good grade and thought it unfair that his grade depended on others.  Of course, the social skills groups described in this book are therapeutic and not graded but I think it would have been relevant to discuss dealing with the reality of school demands. 

 Moyes suggests an activity where each student chooses a group role (such as editor or artist).  Group behavior is complex in general and here is where I would have liked a bit more description of various types of group projects that were successful, why and how they were adapted to meet the needs of individual students.  

As Moyes explains, learning about another person’s perspective can be very challenging and frustrating and again Moyes does an excellent job of explaining the types of barriers children face.  Readers will learn how children need to differentiate “acquaintances” from “friends”, when behaviors cross the line and become ‘stalking” and that lessons need to be short, pleasurable and involve positive  reinforcement.  Moyes explains how children learn about points of view by:

·         Sharing a similar experience yourself

·         Talking about having a similar experience

·         Imagining what it feels like to feel the way the person is feeling because you can “put yourself” into their experience.

Moyes suggests that lessons involve learning perspective by discussing social stories and role playing with the assumption that there is no right or wrong answer as to how characters feel because one cannot know for sure what is going on in the mind of the person in the story.  This is useful but I would also like to learn what to do when students clearly have socially unacceptable values.   For example, a child might feel that no one should cry over the death of a pet because now the owners won’t have to spend money feeding it.  Many people would find these values offensive, so how is a student to know which ideas to share and which to keep to himself?

 I highly recommend Visual Techniques for Developing Social Skills. No matter what your discipline or role in the child’s life- this book provides insight into the social challenges faced by students on the autism spectrum and the educational systems obligations to address them.  Every school should purchase a copy and let the programs begin!

If you purchase from Future Horizons use the code PEDIA to get 15% off.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Holiday/Seasonal Paper Puzzles

Paper puzzles are a bit time consuming to make but once its made you can photocopy and use for many years and therapy sessions. Pick your own theme. I copied an internet photo in honor of the upcoming martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
I trimmed away the excess white border,

placed it on a sheet of paper and traced the border with marker.




Next, make measurements with a ruler to draw lines. In this case I drew 1 vertical line and 3 horizontal lines to make a puzzle with 8 pieces. Make a puzzle with more pieces if the student is able to perform a more complex task or less pieces if the student needs a less challenging task. Number the squares or rectangles on the grid.  




On the back of the picture draw a matching grid.



Write numbers on back of the picture and cut on lines.
Students place matching shapes on grid and glue or tape in place.
This activity works on many skills such as:
  • cutting on lines
  • forming numbers
  • matchiing numbers
  • using ruler to make a straight line
  • sequencing and organization
Students can be involved in making the project from scratch, do part of the preparation or be given the grid and pieces to complete the puzzle.
Don't forget to make lots of copies of the grid and photo before cutting up the first picture!





Knitting Bag

I made this knitting bag out of plastic bags from the Boston Globe (blue, red and yellow) and supermaket- (whites and browns).