Announcing my Kindle ebook “Raising an Amazing Child with Autism”

Raising an Amazing Child with Autism ebook coverI’m proud to announce the publishing of my ebook with Kindle Direct Publishing, on Amazon. I wrote this book to share my stories and advice on raising my son diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. As the parent of a child with special needs, I laughed and cried and felt a kinship with parents who told their stories. Having a special-needs child is an emotional roller coaster. You must give up your pre-conceived dreams of who your child will be, and learn to set new goals for them, for yourself and for your family. You will experience great pride, and heart-felt devastation. You may feel alone, shunned by friends, and classroom parents who won’t understand. Your child may be bullied, and left out of play dates and playground games. But your journey can be exhilarating and satisfying too. If you’re lucky, you’ll find others who love and accept your child, and understand your experience. You may find your child has strengths and talents you never imagined. You life will be enriched by the experiences in store for you. I hope these stories and ideas encourage you when raising your amazing child with autism!

Raising an Amazing Child with Autism, Stories & Advice from an SLP Mom was published this week by Kindle for e-readers. Stop by the Kindle store and read a few free pages from the start of my book. You don’t need a Kindle device to read ebooks. Kindle has a free app download for your laptop computer, so you can read Kindle ebooks on any Mac, PC, Tablet or phone!

The collection of 39 stories of our son, and our family, focus on:

  • Therapy Tips & Ideas
  • Diagnosis
  • School & Advocacy
  • Family & Personal Life
  • Adolescence & Beyond

I’m hoping this ebook will make a difference for some families today in need of a trusted parent & friend’s advice on raising a child with autism. My Kindle ebook Raising an Amazing Child with Autism, Stories & Advice from an SLP Mom is $4.99 on Kindle.

All stories in my book were previously published on my blog.

Raising an Amazing Child with Autism, Stories & Advice from an SLP Mom

My new book is available on Teachers Pay Teachers, Raising an Amazing Child with Autism, Stories & Advice from an SLP Mom.

Raising an Amazing Child with Autism book coverAs the parent of a child with special needs, I laughed and cried and felt a kinship with parents who told their stories. Having a special-needs child is an emotional roller coaster. You must give up your pre-conceived dreams of who your child will be, and learn to set new goals for them, for yourself and for your family. You will experience great pride, and heart-felt devastation. You may feel alone, shunned by friends, and classroom parents who won’t understand. Your child may be bullied, and left out of play dates and playground games. But your journey can be exhilarating and satisfying too. If you’re lucky, you’ll find others who love and accept your child, and understand your experience. You may find your child has strengths and talents you never imagined. You life will be enriched by the experiences in store for you. I hope these stories and ideas encourage you when raising your amazing child with autism!

The collection of 39 stories of our son, and our family, focus on:

  • Therapy Tips & Ideas
  • Diagnosis
  • School & Advocacy
  • Family & Personal Life
  • Adolescence & Beyond

It’s the kind of memoir I would have wanted when I was raising my son. I’m hoping it will make a difference for some families today in need of a trusted parent & friend’s advice on raising a child with autism.

All stories in my book were previously published on my blog.

 

Siblings & Autism Spectrum

siblings

My child with autism has a typically-developing older sister.  She’s fairly quirky, (a story for another time) but gets along well with others, and hasn’t the challenges her brother has. During the early years of our family, our daughter often had to wait to have her needs met.  Family resources went to her brother first.  She learned to be patient and take care of herself, while we gave time and attention to our son. She did, however, share her hurt feelings when there was a shift during a particular time of upheaval. This was when our son got moved to a new school.  She noticed that I didn’t come in to volunteer in her classroom like I had done before.  My focus on him left her wanting and hurting. Many families report that siblings of children with autism often experience feelings of neglect.

If you see signs of your child’s siblings hurting, there are some ideas to support them:

  • Information  – Share children’s books on autism with siblings.  Have discussions.  They need to have some information too.
  • Let them speak their mind  – They may say things that surprise you, but when they feel heard and valued, that will lead to positive feelings and behavior.
  • Special time   –  Make a point to have special time with each sibling.  Get a sitter if needed.  It doesn’t have to be a big block of time.  Just connect with them.
  • Strive to be fair  – Everyone in the house can participate at the level of their ability.  Families working together will create unity.
  • Have fun  – Enjoy things when you can.  Under stress, it can be hard to see the good things that may be happening around you, but I encourage you to look for that.  Enjoy your children, because they grow up too fast.
  • Support Groups – You may find a Sibling Support Group to be helpful.  See if there are any in your area.

When our daughter was in high school, there was a boy in her class who had a lot of difficulty.  He blurted out frequently, his social skills were poor, and he had much trouble getting along with students and teachers.  My daughter described to me how the other students teased him, or excluded him from activities.  When I asked how she treated him, she said she couldn’t be mean to him, because he was just like her brother, only older.  It was then that I realized the years of living with a sibling with autism provided the unexpected benefit of helping her to develop tenderness toward those with disabilities.  This is one of my daughter’s best qualities.

Kids and Social Skills

kids social skills

kids social skills

I was recently asked by a friend what would help her son develop his social skills.  We talked for a bit and here are the ideas I shared:

  • Vocabulary – To begin a dialogue on social skills your kid needs to know and use words like feeling, thinking, expectation, intention, reaction, meltdown, repair? All these vocabulary words, and more, will be needed if you are going to talk about interactions with people.
  • Enlist their cooperation by using a team approach.  Be a coach or mentor to help them improve their social interactions.
  • Social interaction autopsy – Take the time to take apart the event and look at what went wrong. Social interactions happen quickly, and your child can miss things that seem obvious to you. (Remember you are older, more mature and more experienced. Your child is not, yet.)  Tell him what you observed. Can your kid see in other situations when he offends someone?  Help him to look at, and remember, this when someone offends him.  If he doesn’t see his behavior having an affect on others, yet, try this in reverse. Help him to identify when he feels bad, or good, with another’s behavior.  Discuss it and give your child time to think about it.
  • Practice – set up the situation and have him practice new skills. If he gets a gift that is awful, he can practice saying “This is thoughtful of you.  Thank you for giving me a gift,” instead of saying whatever he thinks without regard to the other’s feelings.
  • Learning social skills takes time. Be patient. Everyone learns at their own pace. As long as he’s moving forward, this is success. It may seems like it’s taking a long time, just keep trying.  You’ll be glad you did.

Many social thinking resources are available.  I like Ted Baker’s and Michelle Garcia Winner’s books and materials.

Also it’s probably better to talk side-by-side, both you and your child facing the same way. This approach gives the nonverbal message of acceptance and cooperation.  Do this by taking a walk, driving in a car, or sitting side by side.

 

 

 

High-Functioning Autism and Social Skills

Children and adults with autism vary greatly in their strengths and challenges, but most persons with autism have difficulty with social skills.  Frequently referred to as “mind-blindedness”, they have trouble knowing what others might be thinking.  A person with high-functioning autism (sometimes referred to as Aspergers), may act oddly, hurt other’s feelings, or ask inappropriate questions without knowing it.

Students with high-functioning autism share symptoms with others diagnosed with autism, but their strengths allow them to function fairly well in school or at work.  They do not usually have delayed language development; they often have average to above average intelligence; and usually are passionate about one or two specific topics.  They don’t do “small talk” well, and often have trouble understanding the non-verbal aspects of communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language.  They want to be involved with others, but lack the social skills of how to go about it.

facial expressionsBut social skills can be taught, and learning them can make a big difference for children and adults with autism.  social skills gamesA speech/language pathologist can teach specific skills like understanding facial expressions and body language, self-monitoring, and how to be part of a group.  Lessons involve recognizing indirect language (like hints or implied information) and learning to make guesses.  Students may also learn about understanding and interpreting emotions, understanding intentions and how to solve problems.

For more information regarding teaching social skills for children or adults with high-functioning autism, visit Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program.

See another post using ideas from Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program here.

Read about why it’s difficult living with an Aspergers person here.

Click the Autism link above for more stories and ideas about autism.

Originally posted 4/22/12.

How to Teach Social Thinking to Students with Autism

how to teach flexibility autismStudents with autism often have inflexible thinking.  When kids hear a comment like “We’ll go in 5 minutes”, typically-developing kids make guesses about it, or understand that the meaning is about 5 minutes and not exactly 5 minutes. Kids with autism tend  be concrete thinkers and may take language literally, and think the meaning is exactly 5 minutes! Figurative language is tricky for the student with autism also. They may hear someone say “She knocked my socks off” and may think the speaker’s socks came flying off.

Inflexible thinking causes many problems for students. When a student is inflexible, it will be hard for him to get along with his classmates. It will be like his brain is a rock – hard and stiff, and unwilling to consider other’s actions and feelings.  He often misunderstands phrases or behaviors that his classmates use. He takes things literally and won’t understand the nuances of polite language. His classmates use language to navigate socially, but his “rock brain” will prevent him from knowing the differing meanings of language like figures of speech, irony, sarcasm and the difference between bullying and just kidding around.  

Inflexible thinking can also cause problems with school or family schedules, as well as environments.  Some students can cling to their routines and have difficulty being flexible if their routine is interupted. If there is a change in a child’s regular schedule, it may cause a meltdown or at the very least some anxiety. Some students need to have their environments arranged a certain way, and feel anxious if their items are moved, or out of place.

Ways to teach your child to be flexible:

Choose your words. I once knew a student who appeared to be struggling with an assignment.  His teacher said “Just do the even ones.”  The student immediately did numbers 2, 4, 6, 8. and 10.  With 15 minutes left in class, the teacher took his paper and saw he was capable, and said to him “Now go back and do the odd.”  The student melted down and shouted at the teacher “You promised I only had to do the even!” This was a problem with the word “just”.  The student understood it to mean one thing, that he “only had to do the even ones and no more“.  The teacher may have let it be, but not understanding her student’s difficulty with language flexibility, she created a larger problem. I worked with a middle schooler last year on problem-solving.  When working through an activity I said to him, “Guess“.  But he refused.  He insisted “I can’t guess. Don’t make me guess.” I changed my wording. ‘OK,” I said, “Let’s come up with a solution.”  The student could do the work (as long as I didn’t use the word “guess”.)\

Check for understanding. Watch your child to see if they understood what you are asking.

Give advance warning on changes.  Kids with high-functioning autism (like Aspergers) appreciate when you warn them of a change coming up.  I’ve found younger kids need this more often, and older kids begin to understand that changes are normal in life and to expect changes (or at least to be flexible with changes when they occur.)

Help your student be a “language detective”. One of the best ways to figure out a message is to consider the whole body.  Is the facial expression and body language matching what the person said?  Teach your child to “read” the other parts of the message (tone of voice, body language, context etc.) Is the message “for real” or “sarcasm” or “a joke”? Teach explicitly.  Your child has not figured it out on his own yet.  Come along side and teach him.

Flexible Brain and Rock Brain Lesson – I teach this lesson to my spectrum kids: flexible brain toyI use a small flexible brain (check your local toy store) and a rock.  I show the two items and let the kids hold them, try to squeeze them etc. We talk about how everyone’s brain needs to be flexible, because interacting with others will always be changing.  When I ask the kids about what will happen if we are “rock brains’?  they can usually say that we’ll have trouble playing and working with others.  We talk about how a soft squishy brain toy will not hurt a friend if we throw it at them.  (Before talking about the “throwing” be sure to collect up the rock, so that the kids have only the brain to throw around, if they get too excited. ) But a hard rock would hurt others.  I tell them it’s the same with them.  If they are being flexible it will be easier to get along with friends, no one gets hurt. But with a rock brain, it’s possible we will hurt others’s feelings, and no one will want to hang out with us.

Older students can recognize different scenarios as “flexible” or “rock” brain.  And many kids can recall a time when they noticed another’s behavior with them was “flexible” or “rock brain”.

If you like these lesson ideas, you’ll like Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Superflex”.

(Reposted from 10/6/13)

Autism Stories

Autism Stories

I love thrift stories and enjoy looking through all the books!  Today I picked up a couple of books by Kathy Hoopman – Blue Bottle Mystery, and Of Mice and Aliens (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001).

I remember this author from her wonderful book All Cats Have Aspergers. 

blog_all_cats_have_aspergersAll Cats Have Aspergers was a fun book and an easy way to talk about the funny, quirky qualities of Aspergers with my young son.  It was supportive and made it seem like being unique was not such a big deal. I strongly recommend this book for parents and kids with high functioning autism (formerly known as Aspergers Syndrome).  It even works well for kids who have sensory processing problems.  They’ll see themselves in the book too.

I’m looking forward to reading these new stories (new to me).

Requests and Literal Thinkers (Autism)

Social Thinking Literal ThinkersPeople with autism are literal thinkers.  They often miss sarcasm or misinterpret joking because they pay attention to the literal, or exact, meaning of the words.

I often had trouble communicating with my son (diagnosed with high-functioning autism) because I would hint or imply a request. He did not understand that I was actually making a request.  So that’s my first piece of advice to you, if you’re raising a child with autism, or living with an adult with autism. If you want your child/spouse to clean up his room, put something away, or fix a broken item, ASK DIRECTLY. Instead of saying “Your room is a mess” use “You need to clean up your room”.

The second thing that will help is the word you use when you ask your question. You should use “Will you…?” when making a request.  “Will you clean up your room?”  When you use “will”, you are obligating the listener to reply with his commitment. If you ask “Can you…?” your literal thinker will be wondering about his ability.  He will think “Can I…?” and he will further think “Yes, I can.  I am able to do that.”  But since he’s a literal thinking he’ll not make the jump to the idea that you are asking him to do that.

The last thing that may help is a time expectation on your part.

When does the garbage need to be taken out?  Before you go to bed on Thursday night, because the garbage truck collects on Friday morning.

Be specific and make you request using a time expectation.

Will you take out the garbage before you go to bed? 

Will you feed the dog at 6:00? 

Will you wash your car on Saturday?

By directly asking, using the words “will you” and putting a time expectation on it, you will improve your communication with your child/spouse with autism.