Category Archives: Autism Book Reviews From Your Fearless Librarian

Best Picture Books about Autism

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I might be willing to come in and talk to a group of kindergarteners about autism. Of course, this isn’t just any group of kindergarteners. It’s my autistic son’s peers. So, I wanted a read aloud or two, and I wanted them to be good. Being a school librarian, I know that there are an awful lot of children’s books out there. So, I asked the most qualified people I know –my readers — to offer their suggestions on my Facebook page. I got a lot of them.

I couldn’t afford to buy them all, so I ordered several that seemed to fit the age group and read them all in one sitting. No, I didn’t like all of them. I’ve included only the ones here I’m recommending. Simply because I don’t find negative reviews useful to an audience of readers who already have limited time. I tend to shy away from the preachy ones, believing that children are much savvier readers (and listeners) than we give them credit for. And I like books that are a bit subtle and lend themselves to fruitful discussion. Because that’s where you reach hearts and minds.

1. Looking after Louis by Lesley Ely, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

lookingLooking after Louis is the story of a little boy, Louis, who is autistic and is a student in a regular elementary classroom. His friend, an unnamed little girl, narrates the story as she and her classmates try to understand Louis and some of his unusual behaviors. Louis repeats what others say. He colors pictures that others don’t understand. He runs about through the children’s soccer game. Though the children are sweet and generally accepting of Louis, they do begin to notice that Louis is allowed to do some things they aren’t – and point it out. But then a moment comes along in which everyone recognizes Louis’s effort to communicate something special to him. That leads another child to invite Louis to play with him, but it isn’t recess. His teacher, understanding that this is a teachable moment, allows them to go outside with Louis’s aide. The little girl at first resents what she views as special treatment, until her teachers gives her a moment to consider her opinion. Ultimately, she decides that sometimes it’s okay to break rules and expectations for special people – thus supporting the idea of inclusion in the regular classroom. It’s okay that some things are different for students who require it, but everyone can be friends.

I really liked this little story, mainly because the range of emotions for these children is honest. At times, they are encouraging of Louis. Sometimes, they are bewildered. And others they are a little resentful of what they view as unfair. However, because of their teacher’s open and accepting handling of Louis, they learn about the true spirit of inclusion. This would make a great read aloud that could lead to a productive conversation about differences. Instead of telling, this book shows what a tolerant and welcoming classroom should look like – a point in its favor and one that distinguishes it from preachier special needs children’s literature. Recommended.


2. Andy and His Yellow Frisbee by Mary Thompson

andyAndy and His Yellow Frisbee is the story of Sarah, a new girl at Andy and Rosie’s school. Sarah has noticed Andy, who is autistic, each day at recess, spinning the same yellow Frisbee over and over. She decides to try to connect to Andy by inviting him to spin her pink Frisbee, which she has clearly brought from home in an effort to engage him. Andy’s sister Rosie, playing soccer nearby, faithfully watches over him. She becomes concerned when she sees Sarah sit down next to Andy, knowing that others do not always understand him. She leaves the game and comes over to observe them, seeing Sarah’s gentle effort to interact with Andy and her acceptance that perhaps he’ll choose to do so on another day. Sarah and Rosie decide to play Frisbee together.

I loved this subtle story of acceptance, probably because Sarah reminds me of my daughter. Between Sarah’s effort and Rose’s calm but protective wait-and-see, this story gently conveys to typical children that there is no magic formula for interacting with someone who is autistic. What’s important is to realize that effort does make a difference, even if there isn’t an immediate reward. Andy did notice Sarah’s Frisbee offering, though he continued to play by himself. Sarah’s acceptance of that is beautiful and will serve as a model for typical students wanting to interact with their autistic peers, but unsure of how to do so. Andy and His Yellow Frisbee isn’t what I would choose as a first read aloud when introducing the concept of autism to typical students, because its focus is narrower. But I think it’s ideal as a follow-up later to reinforce lessons on differences and to help students learn to engage with their autistic peers. It is also a lovely story for protective siblings of children on the spectrum. Recommended.

3. Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism by Laurie Lears, illustrated by Karen Ritz

ianIan’s Walk is the story of siblings Julie, Tara, and Ian – who is autistic – and their walk to the park. Julie initially doesn’t want Ian to tag along, but gives in when he whines. Her mother admonishes Julie that she must be sure to keep a close eye on Ian. As they head out on their walk, Julie observes the different ways that Ian hears, sees, smells, and feels things. Even though she makes these observations, she finds herself frustrated with the inconveniences of Ian’s differences and loses her patience. When the girls stop to get pizza, Tara reminds Julie to watch Ian. But Julie is distracted and suddenly realizes that Ian has disappeared. The sisters race about, frantic to find their vulnerable little brother. Then Julie focuses and decides to think and experience their surroundings like Ian – where would he be? Sure enough, that’s how she finds him, making the big bell at the park gong back and forth. Julie is so grateful he is safe that she now has a new perspective on their walk back. This time, she allows Ian to enjoy the walk as he wants to experience it, allowing him to stop and immerse himself in the sights, smells, and sensations he loves.

Ian’s Walk is a beautiful story with a simple plot, but one that conveys the complex sibling relationships inherent in special needs families. It’s an obvious story to share with siblings of autistic and special needs children (or even in support groups for such). But because the story also describes so well many aspects of autism and sensory integration disorder, it would also be a great introductory read aloud for the topic. My 7-year-old loved this story and recognized both her brother in the story as well as her own emotions in it. Recommended.

4. My Friend with Autism, Enhanced Edition with CD by Beverly Bishop, illustrated by Craig Bishop

myfriendwithautismMy Friend with Autism isn’t a story so much as a narration by a peer, who tells readers about his friend, who is autistic. It begins with an explanation of all the things his friend is good at – hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, being smart, etc. For each thing his friend is good at comes an explanation of how that affects the friend (examples: extra-sensitive ears that hear before others but cause him to sometimes cover his ears). This part is a positive outlook on autism, but matter-of-fact. There is a shift about halfway through when the narrator explains that – while his friend is good at many things – there are some things that are difficult (talking, understanding feelings, sharing, etc.) What’s good about this part is how the narrator makes suggestions of what can be done to help the friend when these things occur.

My Friend with Autism is a practical and positive introduction to autism for typical students. It treats autism as something children shouldn’t worry about and conveys to them that they really can be friends with their autistic classmates. This enhanced edition comes with a guide for adults that includes factual information about autism as well as tips for working with children on the spectrum. The CD includes coloring sheets of pages from the book for children to enjoy after the read aloud. I would suggest this book as a first read aloud for an inclusion classroom to be followed by one or more of the other stories in this list.

If you have shared any of these wonderful books with children or students in your life, please comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.  :)

Note to publishers and authors: I’m happy to update this list over time, should you wish to send me a review copy. I’m interested only in picture books. I simply don’t have the time right now to read and review novels. Send queries to: flappinessis@gmail.com.   

 

(Giveaway!) Book Review: I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames by Jeni Decker

Note:  I contacted Jeni Decker a couple of months ago to request a copy for review of her book I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames, having heard about it on various social networking sites.  Her publisher sent a review copy and will send another free copy to the lucky giveaway winner.  Other than the review copy, I have not received or been offered any sort of compensation or blog promotion for my review.  

Okay, kids.  Let me preface my review of I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames by Jeni Decker with a warning.  If you are rendered insensible from frank discussion of topics such as homosexuality, masturbation, and poop, please gather your belongings and locate the nearest exit.  Because, though I adore and value you as much as any of my readers, there is no point encouraging you to read a book that will upset your constitution.  Each and every one of us have preferences in our reading material.  If you are offended by these topics, think mothers should never share potentially embarrassing stories of their children, or are a stalwart social conservative who can’t take a little liberal ribbing – by all means find another book to read.  (This is not to be construed as a political stance of my own.  I have friends all over the political spectrum and am quite happy to remain that way.)  Jeni Decker is unapologetically true to both herself and her opinions and does not mince her words.  Some of you might get offended.  Those of you with more relaxed literary tastes, however, should remain for the rest of my review.

(Jeni Decker should kiss me for that warning, by the way.  It’s enough to tempt curious souls, don’t you think?)  😉

I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames is parts memoir, manifesto, and poetry all rolled into one.  They come at you in separate bursts that end up telling the story of Jeni Decker’s admittedly chaotic life.  Decker, mother to two children on the autism spectrum and wife to a husband in renal failure, is a woman struggling to deal with the challenging hand life dealt her while managing to pursue a successful writing and film making career.  That she manages to do it with such humor and unflinching honesty is to her credit.  But she does — and all while maintaining a healthy perspective of “Well, why not me?”.

And all prior teasing about shocking content aside, spectrum kids do have real issues with socially acceptable behavior.  Shocking content is often in the job description of parents of ASD kids.  My child is too young to worry about that right now, but I have taught spectrum kids before.  I remember how horrified I was the first time one such child demonstrated a lack of awareness of sexually inappropriate behavior. I was caught between really not wanting to address it, pity for the oblivious child who had to have it gently explained, and a sense of duty to do so anyway.  Puberty, suffice it to say, is rough on kids with autism.  And rough on the parents/caregivers who love them.  Many of Decker’s funnier stories are related to her kids attempts to make sense of the sexual world, its nature and mores.  They, in the direct way of the ASD child, ask uncomfortable questions that Decker feels no more ready to answer than any of the rest of us.  So, she does it in the only way she knows how – being herself – with often hilarious yet touching results.

Interspersed with her irreverent humor are glimpses into Decker the woman – an artistic soul deeply in love with and committed to her children, yet passionate in her beliefs and individuality.

“I am one person with many facts, each one as important as the other, and I don’t believe one facet negates the other.”

If you share her politics, you’ll get a kick out her humor.  Even if you don’t, try to overlook those jabs and appreciate the book for what it is – a brutally honest portrait of the life of a parent with multiple children on the spectrum.  Lightning often does strike twice in autism families.  (It struck three times in mine.)  We need to hear these stories and share these perspectives.

What impresses me more than Decker’s wit, however, are the subtle yet poignant moments demonstrating the very real differences in thinking between autistics and neurotypicals.  In one chapter, Decker tells the story of an impossible dream of her son’s and his attempts to have a particular company contact him about his idea.  He perseverates on it, and she must endure months of his asking for mail every day.  At one point, Decker even wrote the company herself – begging them to respond to her enthusiastic but oh-so-different little boy.  They never did.  She relates notes home from teachers about disastrous school days for her children.  Days that obviously hurt the mother inside even while Decker maintains a brave and defensive stance.  And strewn throughout her narrative are her son’s touching, often unintentionally moving journal entries and poems.

“I wonder if there are hidden colors in the world?  There just might be hidden colors in the world…” 

I liked I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames.  There are moments throughout the book that took me by surprise in their heartfelt rendering of the uniqueness of the autistic mind and the complexities of preparing these children of ours for the perceptions of the world.  I left it thinking how, though similar in our joys, frustrations, and fears for our children, we are all actually very different in our individual journeys with autism.   We all have stories to tell.  And we must be fearless in hearing them.  Decker says it best here:

“There is a difference between resignation and acceptance.  You have to eat what’s on your plate, not shove it around until it resembles something else.  But you’ve really made it when you can find the good that comes out of the pain.  Pain and joy are equally necessary in life — without one, you wouldn’t be able to recognize the other.  What I’ve learned about life is that it’s about getting from point A to point B but everyone does this differently…With each living person, history is left to judge what their contribution to the world might be.  Labels, supposedly, inform who we are, but the beauty of life is that it enables us to accept or reject them at will.  We can allow others to define us, or decide for ourselves who we really are.”

To enter for a free copy of I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames, please leave a comment below.  I will announce a winner on April 18th.  Good luck!

If you would like to check out Jeni Decker, you can locate her on Twitter, her website, or Facebook.

For more reading by parents of multiple spectrum kids, check out Adventures in Extreme Parenthood by Sunday Stillwell. 

(Giveaway) Book Review: In His Shoes by Joanna L. Keating-Valasco

Note:  I was contacted by the author Joanna L. Keating-Velasco with a request to consider this book for review.  After accepting, she sent me a free copy for review.  This is the copy that I will be giving away to a lucky reader.  Gently used, I promise.  I received no other incentive or promise of blog promotion for my review.

Because of the staggering numbers of autistic kids who are being bullied in school, In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism appealed to me.  And, while this is not a book about bullying, it is a book that could help prevent or alleviate bullying of ASD kids.

In His Shoes:  A Short Journey Through Autism is written for a middle school audience.  The book is arranged in chapters containing vignettes of daily experiences of a 13 year-old autistic boy named Nicholas.  Nicholas speaks, but is not conversational.  He suffers from sensory integration issues and is often quite frustrated at his inability to communicate his thoughts and needs.  Nicholas is enrolled in a self-contained classroom, but attends inclusion classes to learn and socialize with typical kids.

Through the vignettes, we observe Nicholas as he experiences many things common to autistic kids.  We also see the experiences of the typical kids who interact with him.  Which is important.  It can be hard, when worrying and hurting for your bullied child, to remember that kids are kids and usually do not have the knowledge or life experience to understand our children’s eccentricities which do seem weird to typical kids.  He (and they) experience such things as:  transitioning to middle school, meeting new people, meltdowns, food aversions, being taken advantage of, bullying, birthday parties, being talked about, sibling relationships, sensory overload, adapted curriculum, going to the dentist, and more.  Following each vignette, is a “Points to Ponder” section of thought-provoking discussion questions.

I particularly like the design of this book.  Having worked with thousands of middle schoolers, I can tell you firsthand that middle schoolers do not care about autism.  Middle schoolers care about middle schoolers.  They are still very self-centered at this age.  It isn’t that they don’t care when faced with another person’s difficulties.  It is that they are mostly oblivious to them.

When you want to reach the hearts of a group of 11-13 year-olds, you have to first put them in the other person’s shoes.  This is what Keating-Velasco does with the aptly named In His Shoes.  Each of the “Points to Ponder” questions asks students how they would feel if faced with the same situation.  The questions are excellent, and I can tell you from experience that they would start a wonderful classroom discussion about tolerance, compassion, and bullying.  Middle schoolers actually love to discuss these issues – especially when given an opportunity to share their opinions!

I see In His Shoes best being utilized in a group setting.  It would be an ideal book to use in 15-20 minute segments.  I could see youth groups, peer counseling groups (student led school guidance activities), or classroom teachers using it.  It is quite the thing these days to have built into the school schedule advisor-advisee periods – usually once a week or during a short homeroom period – when teachers or guidance counselors lead discussions about topics such as this.

If you are a parent whose ASD child is transitioning to middle school or having problems in his/her school, I would take a copy of this to the guidance counselor or principal and ask if they might be willing to use this with the students.  I would go that route first rather than the classroom teacher, as approval would no doubt be needed first.   This book might also be useful to put in the hands of siblings of ASD kids (or their friends) who are having difficulty understanding a brother or sister’s needs.

Joanna L. Keating-Valasco also has a similar book geared toward elementary students.  As my teaching experience has been only middle school for the past 14 years, I decided I would best be able to evaluate this book.  But it might be an option if your child is in elementary school.

In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism is a book written with a specific purpose – opening the hearts and minds of middle schoolers to the experience of kids with autism.  Based upon my professional experience, I think it would do an admirable job of doing just that.  Highly recommended.

The author’s website and information for ordering:  http://aisforautism.net/.

If you would like to enter to receive a free copy of In His Shoes, please leave a comment below.  Must be received by February 9, 2012.  (Planning to simply draw a name out of a hat!)  Question:  Have you (or would you consider) visiting your child’s classmates (or having guidance assistance) to explain his or her ASD condition?  Why or why not?  And, if you did, how did it go?  

Book Review: Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

Note:  Steve Silberman, contributing science editor at Wired Magazine (and a fan of my blog – what an honor!), emailed me with a suggestion that I might want to review Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism with an offer to arrange a free review copy.  Mr. Silberman was enthusiastic enough about this book that he named it his Book of the Year, so I happily agreed.   Other than the review copy I received, I have not received any incentive or offer of blog promotion in exchange for my review. 

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, edited by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Byde Myers, Liz Ditz, Emily Willingham, and Carol Greenburg is aptly named.  This is no Autism Spectrum Disorders for Dummies.  Don’t misunderstand me.  All of you are more than capable of reading and digesting this excellent tome.  And you should.  This book is the definitive work on autism for parents, service providers, teachers, and the general public.  Everyone in the autism community should read it.  Seriously.

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism began as a website.  A website dedicated to educating and dispelling myths about autism.  They (the editors) willingly acknowledge their frustration with a growing suspicion of the role of science in uncovering the mysteries of ASD.  These are a group of women who are accomplished writers, thinkers, activists, directors, scientists, and educational experts in their own right – who all happen to have been affected by autism, either through their families or their professions.  Nope.  No dummies here.   These are individuals who have gone and done the dirty work of autism education by actually reading all of those scholarly and scientific articles, books, and theses containing large amounts of statistical data, genetic research, and other topics reminiscent of torture to an English education major such as myself.  (I tip my hat to them and choose to dazzle the world with my ability to explicate metaphorical relationships instead.)

Yet what they chose to do in compiling  Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism was not to overwhelm the average autism book reader with such difficult material.  Instead, they went into the trenches of the autism community – special needs mommy bloggers, teachers, autistic individuals, writers, parents, nurses, therapists, and the like – and gathered the best articles they could find which represent the truth of autism.  The truth – not media-hyped stereotypes or obscure snake-oil salesmen.  Truth about what living with autism really means.  About the nuts and bolts of what you as a parent need to know to help your ASD child navigate this world.  About public perception, bullying, and grief.  About finding  joy, designing an IEP, sensory issues, and potty training.  About cutting yourself some slack and avoiding being suckered.  About preparing your will and finances for an adult child requiring lifelong care.  About neurodiversity, the causes of autism, and getting the most out of therapy.  About autism and puberty, mature autism, and medications.  In short, there isn’t much about autism this book doesn’t eloquently and concisely address.

And, despite all of the information Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism provides, they still have selections that will move the heart – and often mind – of anyone affected by ASD.  This is a book that will make you laugh, cry, nod your head, resolve to learn more, and question or verify your own convictions.  Most importantly, they manage to do it with respect to readers who may not share the same views –and compassion for those whose grief is new and whose walk with autism is not as self-assured.

There are 74 articles in Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.  Although all of them are excellent, these are the ones I bent the page corners on.  (Shhh!  Don’t tell the Librarian Police.  They’ll make me turn in my librarian badge.):

“Bring Everyone Out” by Kyra Anderson

“What Now?  Ten Tips for Families with a New Autism Diagnosis”  by Squillo

“Getting to Know Your New Neighborhood:  Reading Out and Building a Network” by Susan Walton

“Welcome to the Club” by Jess at Diary of a Mom

“On Autism and Self-Compassion”  by Kristin Neff, PH.D

“An Open Letter to Special Needs Professionals” by Pia Prenevost

“Autism and Environmental Chemicals:  A Call for Caution” by Emily Willingham

“Why My Child with Autism is Fully Vaccinated” by Shannon Des Roches Rosa

“The Autism Path” by JeanWinegardner

“Buying Hope”  by Jennifer Byde Myers

“The Keeper:  A Tale of Late-Childhood Asperger’s Diagnosis” by Mir Kamin

“The Crucial String” by Liane Kupferberg Carter

“Grieving the Dream and Living What Is” by Rachel Cohen-Rottenburg

“Shifting Focus:  Eight Facts About Autism the Media Is Not Covering” by Holly Robinson Peete

“Autism Contradictions” by Jillsmo

“Creating a Special Education PTA” by Jennifer Byde Myers

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is a must-have for any autism library.  Not only is it jam-packed with valuable information, it is a well-edited compilation of very well-written pieces and includes a fantastic list of resources in the appendix.  This is not the kind of book you read in one sitting.  Because you can bounce around to any article, it makes an excellent bedside table book to be read in small chunks – allowing you an opportunity to savor, think about, and further research or care/therapy plans.  Run right out and get this one.

Note:  Proceeds of this book go to The Myers-Rosa Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to autism education, advocacy, and community support.

 

So, have any of you read Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism?  If so, what are your thoughts?


(Giveaway) Book Review: What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child with Autism

In the interests of full disclosure, I asked for and received a free copy for review of What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child with Autism.   I did not receive any other compensation or promises of blog promotion for this review, nor am I keeping the review copy I received.  Following the review, I will provide a link to instructions for a giveaway of the same copy.  (Hopefully, the winner will not be offended by a gently used free book!) 

Bobbi Sheahan is one of the first people I met in the online autism spectrum community.  I began following her on both Twitter and Facebook and have enjoyed a friendly online connection with her.  Having read a couple of her guest posts and enjoying her no-nonsense style of writing, I suspected that her book would probably be quite good.  Since I am a people pleaser and, since I have taken a liking to Bobbi, I said a quick prayer following my request for a review copy that I would like it.  I was extraordinarily relieved (yet not surprised) within reading just a few pages.  It is excellent, and I am delighted to recommend it.

There are a lot of books about autism on the market these days.  They range from the dry and somewhat clinical to the sentimental and tear duct-activating.  The informational books tend to cover all aspects of autism from birth to adulthood.  That’s great –- if you are a little ways into your autism parenting journey.  But it can be overwhelming to those just starting out.  To those still in the early years, with toddlers and preschoolers.  And, often, they tell you all about autism behaviors and all the therapeutic things you should be doing with your child (again – somewhat overwhelming), but precious little about how to handle it in reality.  How to handle your own emotions.  Tips for making your life easier.  Suggestions for how to keep your sanity.  And how to know what is most important amongst the onslaught of information and reality overload.

That’s what What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child with Autism really is.  Bobbi Sheahan is that dear family friend who comes to your house on a day of crisis with a casserole in hand who takes your hand and says, “Stay calm.  It’s really going to be all right.  I’ve been through this too.  Here’s what you really need to know.”  Dr. Kathy DeOrnellas provides professional commentary throughout each section that reinforces and elaborates on each of Sheahan’s topics.  It’s a great combination that supports and informs without being condescending.

Sheahan, with honesty and humility, shares her own experiences beginning parenting an autistic child.  She assumes little background knowledge on the part of the reader and enlightens us on topics such as autism lingo, balancing between overreacting and underreacting, handling unsolicited advice, the importance of childproof locks, being kind to yourself, the effects of autism parenting on relationships and marriage, balancing a social life, as well as necessary information on typical autism topics such as food aversions, sensory issues, sleep problems, etc.

Being a quote lover, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Going from ‘There’s nothing wrong here’ to ‘The sky is falling!’ can be jarring. Freaking out a bit is normal.  It won’t always be a shock to your system. You can’t measure your entire future – or your child’s-by the way you feel at this moment. Once you start to know where all of this is headed, it does get easier.”  -Bobbi Sheahan

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to other parents.  Nothing your child is doing is going to be any weirder than something their own child has already done.  Really.”  – Bobbi Sheahan

“You are the expert on your child.  I know more than you do about autism and I know lots of kids with autism, but you know more than I will ever know about your child.  Nothing you tell a professional about your child should be dismissed.”  -Kathy DeOrnellas, PH.D

If you are the parent of a child just being diagnosed on the spectrum, especially in the early years, do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book.  Highly recommended.

What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child with Autism Giveaway Information

Book Review: Motivate to Communicate!

Motivate to Communicate:  300 Games and Activities for Your Child With Autism is a great resource for parents, teachers, therapists, and other caregivers to help motivate children with autism and other communication disorders.  Written by Simone Griffin, a speech therapist, and Dianne Sandler, a special education teacher,  this book aims to help us use everyday objects to entice children to communicate.

It begins with a chapter explaining how motivation plays a powerful part in encouraging children on the autism spectrum to interact and communicate.  The authors caution parents to consider their child’s strengths and interests before embarking on any one of the activities.  They also include a list of useful websites to find toys and resources for special-needs children.

Following the introductory chapter, the book is broken into the following chapters:

1.  Motivate Me with Food

2.  Motivate Me with Party Toys

3.  Motivate Me with Social Games

4.  Motivate Me with Outside Games

5.  Motivate Me at Home and School

Each of the chapters explain dozens of play activities utilizing everyday objects such as utencils, sand, balls, puzzles, mirrors, balloons, etc.  There are very few activities for which one might need to purchase materials.  Most of the needed items are already in your home or available at a Dollar Tree.

Following the activity chapters are lists of useful links.

I really like this book and the simplicity of the authors’ approach to at home therapy.  The explanations for each activity are clear and easy to implement.

My only complaint about this book would be a lack of a skills index for targeting specific needs.  Other books of this nature have such an index.  I hope they think to include one if updating in the future.  Overall though, this is a great addition to an ASD library for parents of young children on the spectrum.

Book Review: The Way I See It by Temple Grandin

In Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin riveted a reading audience who had only the movie “Rainman” as an introduction to autism.  While “Rainman” was a fascinating portrayal of an autistic savant, those of us living with, working with, or loving someone with autism knew that savants represent only a small percentage of autistics.   Because so very many persons with autism are unable to convey the complexities of their thinking, autism itself remained shrouded in mystery.  Then Thinking in Pictures exploded upon the scene and gave people their first glimpse into the mind of someone living with ASD.  For this reason, Temple Grandin is to autism what Hellen Keller is to the blind and deaf.   She helped make the unknowable a little easier to understand and became a hero to many Americans.

In The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s, Grandin steps back from her personal narrative and addresses the subject of autism with parents, teachers, and other caregivers in mind.  In The Way I See It, Grandin focuses not on what it is like to have autism or Asperger’s, but on what we must do for our ASD children – a how-to guide of sorts, especially for parents seeking a starting place on their new journey.

This book is a compilation of articles Temple Grandin has written for Autism Asperger’s Digest over the years.  She addresses such topics as:

  1.  Diagnosis and Early Intervention
  2. Teaching and Education
  3. Sensory Issues
  4. Understanding Non-verbal Autism
  5. Behavior Issues
  6. Social Functioning
  7. Medications and Biomedical Therapy
  8. Cognition and Brain Research
  9. Adult Issues and Employment.

What I like about this book is that Grandin does not merely set herself at a distance and inform you dispassionately about the issues.  She actually tells us what it is most important to do for each child, what helped her, what to avoid, and how to help ASD individuals identify and develop their personal strengths and talents.  She is passionate about what must be included in each ASD child’s basic education and character development and the importance of perseverance.  Finally, she addresses those with ASD directly, giving advice to them about how to find their passion, how to fit in, and how to market their talents.

The Way I See It is an excellent book for parents new to ASD, grandparents, teachers, etc.  It is a great introduction to autism without overwhelming the reader with overly detailed discussion about complex subjects such as speech and social relationships.  There are excellent books that delve into those areas to a deeper degree.  This is not one of those books, nor is it intended to be.

Book Review: Early Intervention Games

This is one of the first books I purchased after realizing that my son was on the spectrum.  Being a librarian, researching book buys is something I do every day, and I applied myself to finding helpful autism books with gusto.   I was looking for something that would give us a list of suggested play therapy activities that we could pull off at home and was hoping that my mother-in-law would get into the spirit and do some of these with him as well.   She didn’t, but that’s not really the point, now is it?  😉

I found Early Intervention Games by Barbara Sher.  Sher is an occupational therapist specializing in pediatrics.  She has written a number of books designed to help teach skills to autistic children.   This one is excellent.

The first two chapters are an explanation of the sensory processing issues that impact autistic and SPD kids.  She explains the goals of the games presented in the book and specifically how they will help the child.  I like her style and tone – informative enough to be useful to a range of knowledge levels on the subject and conversational enough to remain friendly and non-condescending.

The following chapters are broken down into games specifically targeting the following areas:  social gross motor games, social fine motor games, and water games.  Following these chapters is a useful appendix of games indexed by sensory system or skill stimulated.

The Games are laid out a little like a teacher’s lesson plan, which makes them quite easy to implement.  Each Game includes the following: title, goals, materials, setup, directions, variations, what is being learned, and modifications.  What I found especially helpful is that Sher has included suggestions for what to do if a child is not responding in the manner intended that might help to make the activity more successful.

Early Intervention Games is a great resource for teachers, therapists, and families seeking to develop social and motor skills in very young children.

You can also visit Barbara Sher’s website www.gameslady.com for more information and to see videos of some of the games being implemented.

Book Review: Letters to Sam

One of the things I love about being a librarian is finding books I didn’t even realize I had.  Yesterday, while perusing the card catalog, I decided to do a search on autism.  I came across a book that I undoubtably had bought at some point, but didn’t remember.  It is titled Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life by Daniel Gottlieb.  I started skimming it and, many tissues and sticky note bookmarks later, found a real treasure.

When Daniel Gottlieb, a psychologist, was 33 years old, he was paralyzed in a car accident and became a quadriplegic   He regained some use of his arms and went about living a full life, continuing his practice and adjusting to his new circumstances.  Twenty something years later, his daughter had a child, Sam, who quickly began showing signs of autism.  With medical complications from his paralysis that made Gottlieb worry he might not be around much longer and, worrying that Sam might not develop quickly enough to understand what he wanted to teach him, Gottlieb began a series of letters about life, love, and adversity.  In his letters to young Sam, Gottlieb shares valuable lessons learned about being different and how to navigate the world.  He is honest with Sam about the challenges he faces with autism and honest about his own painful experiences following the accident.

The advice that he gives Sam could come only from someone who understands being different.  In a place now where we don’t know what kind of future our two year old autistic child will have, Gottlieb’s instructions on how to be happy in a world that isn’t made for differentness are a beacon of hope for me.  I loved the gentle, yet respectful honesty of this grandfather to his cherished grandchild and was encouraged by Sam’s progress as he grew older.  Hope is a precious commodity in a family impacted by autism.  This wonderful collection of letters inspires hope and reminds me that we will survive what we fear so much right now.  Highly recommended.

P.S.  Gottlieb has another title that I look forward to reading as well- The Wisdom of Sam: Observation on Life From an Uncommon Child.  (Kindle version only .89!)