Book Review: 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

When I was given a copy of the book 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (first edition), I was convinced that I’d be reading “old news”.  Although already familiar with some of the information, I was completely blown away by the section on behavior (chapter three), which has helped me in my daily interactions with our son.  I also think that the behavior chapter is especially helpful to educators. Too many in the autism world have been influenced to think that functional communication is the only true means of communication. It isn’t.

From page 67, on hostile or aggressive behavior:

First, understand where the behavior is coming from. Almost all such behaviors are rooted in your child’s sensory and/or social impairments. He is not doing it to provoke you, embarrass you or make your life miserable. He is not an inherently unkind, cruel, malicious or evil individual. He is most likely feeling frustrated, fearful, threatened, tired, unable to communicate his needs or otherwise unable to cope.  Let your response spring from this understanding.

The chapter also points out ways to avoid escalating a skirmish, which are helpful for parents and educators alike. I also found Chapter 7 To Know the Law, to be helpful. It contains a brief explanation of navigating laws within the public school system as well as links to the three federal laws: IDEA, Section 504, and ADA (see page 196).

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the material was clearly organized and presented in a helpful way. Web addresses are contained within the text, so there is no need to flip back and forth to a notes section at the end of the book to find what you are looking for. Book lists for suggested reading are also given where appropriate, as well as vendor information.  There are some endnotes but they aren’t overly cumbersome.  A great index at the back of the book makes it easy to use this guide as a reference.  I highly recommend this book to all educations and parents. It’s a worthy addition to the library shelf.

NOTE: The authors have published a second edition, which you can peruse here: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Raising-Children-Aspergers-Expanded/dp/1935274066/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384130128&sr=8-1&keywords=1001+great+ideas+for+kids+with+autism+spectrum+disorders

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“ShaShas” (or Circles)

A few months ago, while in Indiana for a wedding, Our Boy decided that he’d start to transition from calling every round object a “ball” to “shasha”. It took a few days for me to figure out that he meant “circle”. Oddly enough, he went back to referring to everything as “ball” after we got back.

So. During his appointment with the occupational therapist, I proudly mentioned that Our Boy had progressed from making only straight lines with sidewalk chalk to attempting to draw circles around himself. However, he “hasn’t figured it out yet and our driveway is full of boy sized semicircles”. Our OT and Our Boy had just started drawing with markers. She asked him if he’d been working on his circles. I made some sort of comment about how “we were so close but he hasn’t made any on paper”. Three seconds after I said it, without comment, Our Boy made his first “shasha”.

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“Official” Progress.

I had a meeting with the officials assigned to work with us in our state’s early intervention program today. I have to admit that I haven’t been looking forward to it. It isn’t easy to see your child through someone else’s eyes. It also isn’t easy to hear their thoughts and opinions on public school, while keeping your opinions to yourself.

As is usually the case with something I dread, it wasn’t a list of the goals I’d failed to achieve with Our Boy, but instead a glowing review of the progress our OT has seen in him. Of the list of goals I mentioned when we entered the program in January, we’ve achieved all but two-functional communication using signs, words or cards and using a utensil for the duration of a meal for most meals. We lost a good amount of the progress we’d made in Our Boy’s communication while under the ST provided by this program. In hindsight, I wish that we had kept him in private therapy. BUT we were able to get back into private therapy and although we couldn’t get his original therapist again our current therapist is working out quite well. Continue Reading

An Update.

I haven’t posted in awhile, and I wanted to take a few minutes to note Our Boy’s progress. Not just for everyone else, but for myself on the hard days.

He S-A-N-G. Not an entire song, just a couple of “I love yous” with his father, who was singing while washing dishes. Our Boy was in the living room. I heard it from the bathroom and although I yelled, “Did you hear that?!” My husband didn’t hear me.

He I-M-A-G-I-N-E-D. I was cleaning before our dinner guest arrived on Wednesday and Our Boy found the hollow tube from his bubble wand on the floor in my room. I have no idea when it arrived to lurk under the window (and on top of the heater) but he found it, sucked air through it, loudly smacked his lips and said, “Ahhhhhh!” I’m certain that he imagined he was drinking Sprite or some other bubbly beverage.

He’s been talking. Not always clearly, but more frequently. While helping my father with his computer, Our Boy plopped in front of me when I knelt on the floor to check the power cords. I said, “Oliver! What are you doing? I can’t see!” He scooted to my left, sat up and very matter-of-factly informed me that he was “Happing (helping) Papaw.”

He K-I-S-S-E-S. For awhile, I only got kisses from Our Boy at church. Today he woke me from a nap by grabbing my chin, turning my head and kissing my cheek. We’ve begun to get hugs every now and then as well.

He socializes. Our Boy really interacted with Wednesday’s dinner guest. He made eye contact with him, shook his hand, brought his copy of “Goodnight Moon” to him to read, was very interested in his phone and keys, and made numerous trips to interrupt our card game in the kitchen to see if he was still there.

All without sending him to a preschool classroom or daycare.

For THIS Child I Prayed.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”

1 Samuel 1:27 (NKJV)

Our Boy in my Tummy. Circa 6 or 7 months?

Our Boy in my Tummy. Circa 6 or 7 months?

This is how my stomach spent most of my pregnancy. The bruises that you see are the result of a daily dose of Lovenox (a blood thinner) that’s used to treat a thrombophilia referred to as MTHFR. I lost two babies before I was able to carry Our Boy to full term. After my second loss, early in our marriage, the doctor’s office ran some blood tests and told me that my blood didn’t process folate (aka folic acid) as it should. My blood would clot in the small vessels of the developing placenta and cut off all supply of nutrients to my babies, resulting in a loss of life. If I became pregnant again, I was to contact them immediately to be put on the regimen of Lovenox, five times the daily dose of folic acid and a daily baby aspirin. I’d like to tell you that this was the “hardest” thing I (we) went through to get him here.

It wasn’t. Continue Reading

Our Boy and His Food.

Our Boy loves food.  Until recently, his favorite of favorites was macaroni and cheese or a big plate of spaghetti with cheese on top.  He has “yummy yummed” and hummed and nearly cheered his way through many a meal.

BUT.

Today I made a phone call.  And I got news that I was somewhat prepared for but kinda hoped that I wouldn’t get.

After a visit to a local biomedical doctor, Our Boy was placed on a very strict diet: no grains, no dairy, no eggs, 80% veggies.  While you’re at it, take these vitamins & supplements to start.  I had hoped to go back to the GFCF diet after the results of his blood work came in. I called today to be sure that I wasn’t feeding him something that could overload his system and result in a severe allergic reaction.  This list doesn’t include the things that were listed as a moderate to low risk, only the Big Baddies: those that are in red ink and listed as AVOID.

THE BIG BADDIES:

ALL Dairy

Eggs (yolks and whites)

Gluten

Brewer’s yeast

And contrary to some misconceptions, YES, a little bit WILL hurt.  I’d write more, but honestly, I’ve spent my morning reading, researching, paying a few bills and spending too much time in Autism Land (which is only a teeny step from Panic & Anxiety Land). So, when Curious George ends, we are making our way out into the great outdoors.  We will try not to blow away.

Education.

I ( we, really) find myself (ourselves, really) at an interesting place: trying to decide if sending our child into the public school system at the ripe old age of THREE is right (or not).  It seems that everyone has a well intentioned opinion on the subject.

The “experts” say:

The best place for him to learn to interact is in a classroom with his peers no less than twenty hours per week.

The only way to get the school to provide services is to send him to class.

He doesn’t have to be potty trained to go!

(But at the same time, by the “experts”, “the public schools do not have the parent/child relationship as a priority. That just isn’t their concern.”)

I had no idea when we started this journey that autism would force us to make decisions (before the end of the current school year) about things that we didn’t think we’d have to even start thinking about until he was around five. I should point out that we’ve leaned toward homeschooling from the beginning and that my own public school “experience” was chock full of bullying.  And, the few times that I’ve seen my son try to interact with children “his own age” they’ve either screamed in horror at the idea that he’d take their toy or, instead of screaming, snatched his toy and run with it.  When they scream, he runs the other way, stimming as he goes, and it can take awhile to get his mind engaged again.  When they snatch his toy and run, his face will start to crumple, and the tears begin to fall, as he, unable to tell me (or anyone else) what’s wrong, starts to fall apart. And I, watching, try to encourage him to share and to shift his focus onto something else.  The only way to know that something bad has happened, at this point, is if I see it.

I am his primary means of communication and his strongest ally.  And although I realize (and hope and pray) that his functional speech will improve, I have a hard time understanding how well he will function in a preschool setting without help.  Of understanding how well a preschool teacher and one or two aides can adequately cover the needs of a classroom full of 3 (and 4 year olds?) (I’ve been told that class size hasn’t exceeded 12 lately) and provide the one-on-one help that he will need. And there is his special diet to consider.

So. On the plus side, I have the phone number of someone to call that I think will actually talk to me and not blow me off via email.  Here’s to remembering to make that call!

(If you’re curious about why I don’t mention private school, it’s because I don’t think the two that are in town are equipped to help him. And if they were, we don’t have the funds.)