I have moved over to WhittereronAutism.com. Please follow the link to find me there. Hope to see you after the jump! :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Some of us will occasionally admit to a grain or two of OCD, but for some people, sometimes, it can be paralyzing.

On a lighter note, I noticed that parents such as myself, long for their non-verbal children to speak - when or if they eventually do, I still don't understand them.


I find wads of sticky tape balled up and stuck to the wooden jam of the pocket door - nasty lethal finger choppers.

I seek out the culprit.

"Why is their sticky tape all over the door dear?"
"S'not sticky tape. It's Scotch tape."
"Right. So why is there Scotch tape all over the door?"
"S'not all over the door, s'jus a small ball."
"Right...So...why is it there? Were you trying to lock the door?"
"It's very important to tell the truth you know. The reason I don't allow locked doors is...because of...er...um...earthquakes, right?"
"So why?"
"To stop my ears."
"Stop your ears from what?"
"From the door jam bang."


Although sometimes, I think he's teasing me.

"Yes dear?"
"All the peoples in dis program are ....calm.....mediums."
"Are they? What is a calm medium?"
"Um...try again?"
"I know...they're all Canadians!"
"Canadians? Are you sure?"
"Er...no... they're all...?"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Science Camp and Social Stories

I'm told it's a fifth grade rite of passage, but I can think of many other descriptions. Last year I remember "reading" about it and thinking, never in a month of Sundays.. and now it's nearly here.

Now it's nearly here, although we've been preparing for over a month, the levels of anxiety are palpable.

To list the deficits would be demeaning and fail to encompass the magnitude of the challenge.

There are lots of parents with young autistic children who are struggling to learn basic skills: dressing, toileting, feeding, talking. They're not thinking about Science Camp - why would they? I certainly never did. I was a miserable skeptic before they arrived - it's genetic. Such things as science camp seemed completely unobtainable, barely struggling through the average 24 hour day. We had more social stories, step by step guides and numbered sequences than I can count, some tailor made, others from the school, all designed to address the dreadful deficits.

They cover the practical -

How to tie your shoes, [a vast improvement on 'where to hide your shoes.']

They tackle the subtle -

How to be a good friend.

We also have a vast number of fringe topics -

Words - why they work
Clothes - why we need them
Food - the ultimate life insurance
CPR for the under 5's [to ward off fear of imminent death and empower]
International flights are not necessarily fatal
Big Ben - what to do about bullies
Field trips are in the category of 'fun'
Traffic, a survival guide
Recess and other alternative forms of torture
Bubbles, what is this thing called personal space?

But children grow, quite often in spite of us, making leaps and bounds we never envisaged. Inexperienced parents, like me, toss the old social stories aside once mastered, only to have the same issue re-appear, sooner, much later, or in a whole new format.

The practicalities loom large but it's important for me to remember that although some tasks are difficult to accomplish physically, there's an awful lot else going on inside his mind. A certain degree of stress and anxiety can motivate - too much and it's paralyzing.

So would a social story help with this situation? Yes and we have one, fully and comprehensively designed by his speech pathologist at school - quite brilliant - but is it enough? Sadly no.

So whether you have a non-verbal 2 year old [been there, done that] or a tantruming 5 year old [ ditto], or a OCD 7 year old [likewise] believe you me, Science Camp is coming, it's compulsory, there's no escape.

What to do?

Many parents have transformed themselves into cheerleaders of the 'you can do it' variety - no matter how ineptly. Over the last year in fifth grade, this attitude is mirrored by the school, of the 'step up to middle school' variety. We're all on the same book if not the same page - rise to the challenge, but fear and doubt lurk about. Our children are much more astute than they're credited - they can almost smell it and I'm sure there's something in my tone and body language that gives me away. I need something concrete as much for myself as for him and that's when I remember.

I remember the ever growing hoard of social stories, a box load of abandoned hurdles and pitfalls, each of which has been overcome. If we need proof he can do it, what better body of ever growing evidence could we have? A veritable treasure trove.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Barbara's Blog Carnival -Childhood Expressions

Which "childhood expression" to "pick" I wonder?

So I thought I'd change the focus from my typical topic to an atypical one.

The first comes from my elder daughter, back in the days when I was a single parent when everything was overwhelming. [hindsight really is a gift!]

Back then she was growing up much too fast just like many children of divorced parents. We read a great deal together, from the board books, baby books, picture books, onwards and upwards to independence. I had never liked 'baby talk' and so I used the same words and style of language that I do with everyone else. She had a great vocabulary as is so often the case when children are surrounded by adults: my parents, my siblings, my friends.

The details are hazy, so many years later but I remember that feeling of cozy harmony, the intimacy between parent and child when a family consists of only two units. If a parent is solely responsible for a single child a devotion develops such that communication is instinctive, words are hardly necessary - a separate world of understanding.

Madonna and child - perfection.

Maybe it was bedtime, perhaps we were at the beach, or playing hang-man? Yes! Hangman, all those years ago...

"That can't be right dear?"
"It is."
"I think you've left the 'h' out by mistake."
"It doesn't have an 'h'."
"Weren't you trying to spell Bahamas?"
"Bahamas? No, it's bajamas."
"What's bajamas?"
"Bajamas... you know... you wear them when you go to bed at night."

Now if we'd lived in America then, no such confusion would have arisen, that's why we stick to PJ's now.

A few decades prior to this exchange, I had my own mishap with my mother, along quite similar lines. Being the dunce of the family I progressed from comic books, to Enid Blyton, to Agatha Christie and I've been stuck in 'whodunnit' mode ever since. On one particularly balmy summer's day, [in England!] I was lying on the grass at my mother's feet, devotional dog that I was, as I read the latest blood curling thriller some 45 years after it was first written. My mother sat in a deck chair, knitting, as only mother's can, as she fought with a particularly complicated lacy pattern, which involved a great deal of counting and under breath cursing. Yards of fine yarn were testament to the unraveling of mistakes.

"Mum?" [I was then English]
"Can you tell me what this word means? I see it on nearly every page."
"What is it?"
"Determinded? I've never heard of it."
"Can't you guess from the context?"
"Read me a sentence."
"Hermione Herringbone was determinded to defeat her tormentors."
"Are you sure it isn't...Spell it for me."
"Really? How odd. Here, pass it over, let me take a peek, hmm, lets see...'Daphne Dalrymple was ...' that's not 'determinded' that's 'determined.'"

What can I say? It's genetic.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One of the most useful PEC's of all Time

Picture Exchange Cards, flash cards and social stories - I tend to use these terms interchangeably - the format isn't important, it's the underlying message, without the need for words which is key.

Time is an abstract concept for youngsters. It may take a while to master it completely. Meanwhile, the practical day to day, passage of time, may prove problematical. As adults, we often forget that time passes very, very, very slowly for children.

Hence, if you are designing a social story for your child to encompass a new event, outing or pursuit, it's as well to prepare in advance and include quite a few 'time' PEC's to help our children manage the unexpected.

The unexpected may come in many forms -

- waiting while everyone gets out of the car if you're in a group
- any preparatory activity by the parent such as locking the car, gathering belongings, setting up a push chair, fumbling for change to pay the meter
- a 'delay' while you pay the entrance fee

It's basically anything that isn't the 'on task' activity which means there is/are delay[s] or waiting involved.

As with all 'new' campaigns, timing is critical. Explain how it works first, in advance, many times, then pick an occasion when you can guarantee success, when you're absolutely certain they will wait for a very short time, no more than a few minutes so they can experience success and relief = times up, no more waiting. This means that short of an earthquake or other natural disaster, their waiting time will be minimal.

We experienced considerable success when we later paired 'the waiting period' with a stop watch, the kind you can hang around your neck. Minutes of waiting could be exchanged for extra minutes at a preferred activity, later.

But be careful how you adopt this with some children, those children who exhibit obsessive traits, as this approach can swiftly morph into a strait jacket for the parent - but that was just my mistake.

Before I knew it, a symbiotic relationship developed - a run of bad luck for the me: no cash for the cafe latte, the credit card that won't swipe, an error in the pin number, ditto with the duplicate, scrabbling for coins amongst the dust bunnies under the seats, the coffee spill which gums up the automatic window function, the refusal to be transported in a car like a wind tunnel, lengthy minutes squandered, static, as I explained the need to get back on track, a waste of breath, words and energy........time racks up pretty quickly.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Most commonly mis-spelled word, Friend

Spelling is one skill that's often overlooked, especially if a child can read and understand the meaning of the words that he reads. Spelling that word correctly is quite another matter and may be complicated by poor writing skills, memory retention and the ability to do more than one thing at a time e.g. remember the word, the order of the letters, aural processing and the many steps of writing.

Overall, spelling can be a painful trial, a weekly dreaded nightmare where doom and failure are guaranteed. However, if you happen to have a visual learner, quite often you can take the list of words and fiddle with it until it's a better match to the child.

Sometimes simply adding color can help patterns pop that weren't immediately obvious.

Or Linking letters so that they stay in the right place.


Many children already know how to spell 'ear' and 'hear' so use it.

Ask your child what time is 'early'? for them. Curiously, they each differ and make no reference to any event such as breakfast or bedtime. There seems to be no differentiation between night and day, but they're adamant about their particular time being early - wonder if it will be the same for you?

Then just tailor the time to fit your child.


Many children can remember how to spell 'tea' without too many difficulty. If so, you can use this visual to tie it in with so many of the vagaries of the English language.

A few steps to help along the road to success.

1. Show them the picture.
2. Describe the different parts and note the colors [use your child's favorites]
Check you're using the same language 'ring/fence/oval/corral.'
3. Ask them to touch the different letters with a finger or point with a pencil if digit/ paper challenged.
4. Afterwards ask them to shut their eyes and describe the scene again and ask them to visualize each bit - they can peek to check.
5. Ask them to spell the word out loud - allow them to 'cheat' and peek if necessary.
6. Repeat as necessary.

Cannot - those double 'n's can be a right pain.

Isn't - Is not

Don't let those tricky contractions fool you, just visualize them shrinking into a tadpole.

One of the most commonly misspelled words is the word friend. How many of us have been assaulted by 'fiends?' How can we best remember how to spell it correctly, and not just for the test?

For us it's easy [or soon will be - I hope]

Name for favorite food?

Yes, that's right, chips, otherwise known as fried potatoes.

Are you familiar with different types of potatoes?

Of course.

How about the "Nadine."

Take your favorite food and insert a potato, a Nadine Potato.

How can you tell if you've inserted your potato in the right spot?

The N of the Nadine should match the END of the word, right after the FRI.

Do not substitute a real Nadine for a potato.

Not everyone can be a Spelling Bee star, nor do they necessarily want to, but this way our children get to experience success in a tricky area, without too much pain.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Eggbert - the Slightly Cracked Egg by Tom Ross and Rex Barron

This beautifully illustrated tale is timely for young and old alike.

Eggbert lives in the fridge where he entertains his fruit and veg pals with portraits and painting, expertly executed until one sad day, someone notices that Eggbert has a crack in his shell - he is punished with banishment.

Eggbert tries to disguise himself elsewhere as he camouflages himself with paint so that he can blend in with many different surroundings. Each disguise fails but he continues to try until one day he makes a remarkable discovery.

Seasonal greetings to all my imperfect pals.

Available "here" and at your local library.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button