Tuesday, June 23, 2009

#11 How does your child travel?

Does your child handle travel well? Given how children with autism tend to cling to routine, vacations can be mine fields for them. I heard of a child who will not sleep in a hotel room unless there are two double beds with a table in between with a lamp on it. If the room is arranged to his satisfaction, he will happily go to sleep.

Jack's routine is that there is no routine, so he travels really well. He enjoys long car rides and traveling by plane, and is generally very patient. Once at the destination, he is happy for a few days, usually, and then starts asking to go home. He won't eat at restaurants (except McDonald's, of course), so we carry a jar of peanut butter and juice boxes with us everywhere. Servers look at us funny when we say all he needs is a spoon. He detests tours. Two years ago, we went to Vermont for a vacation, and I had to pull him out of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company tour, but we did get him to cooperate (grouchily) at the Ben and Jerry's tour by promising him ice cream at the end. Overall, travel with him is pleasant, but we are careful to make sure he has his Thomas trains and cars to play with.

How does your child travel?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Athletic Achievement Can Help ADD/ADHD

Recently, on The New York Times blog Well, Michael Edwards wrote about his experiences growing up with ADHD and how running track helped him succeed in school and life. He is now a principal...one I imagine most readers here wish our kids had!

I found this article extremely inspiring and wanted to share it with you.

An A.D.H.D. Student Finds Confidence on the Track

My take on this is that all children--not just those with disabilities--need to find a "thing" which they enjoy and at which they excel to develop a sense of self-confidence. Temple Grandin has argued that children on the autism spectrum especially need to be encouraged to find their "thing" and have opportunity to do it. Children--disabled or not--whose achievements don't fit with the verbal/analytical testing model in our schools are particularly vulnerable to falling through the cracks in this. Whether it's sports, art, writing, reading, ballet, video games, crafts, or cooking, we ALL need to feel good about doing something.

It's long disappointed me that the schools focus primarily on verbal/analytical skills while ignoring all the other types of achievements that contribute to a well-rounded world. That athletes like the young Mr. Edwards can lose their right to play from poor academic performance seems particularly bothersome...though I do understand why schools have athletic standards for players. It's become so bad in the schools that even children who learn differently (say, learning to read using whole language rather than the currently hyped phonics) feel the weight of teacherly disappointment as early as kindergarten.

How do you feel about Mr. Edwards' article and this subject in general? I'd love to read some other perspectives and experiences.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

#11 What's up for summer?

What sort of things do you do during summer to keep your child with autism progressing?

For us, summer is broken up by Extended School Year through the public school. Jack has qualified for the last three years because of his need for routine. Every break through the year leads to a week or so of readjusting to the routine of school. This year, summer school is the month of July from 12-2 on Monday through Thursday. Jack also has regular speech/OT/PT at Children's Hospital on Friday mornings.

For fun, he's going to go to vacation Bible school at our church one week, take a few classes/camps at the YMCA, and attend Junior Ranger Camp at our local state park for a week. A babysitter will attend all these activities with him, to provide the additional support and focus Jack needs.

We're doing a bit of summer homeschooling for both boys. Jack needs any opportunity to focus on undesired tasks he can get, so we're doing worksheets and writing and reading practice. He learns best with whole language (the schools focus on phonics), so I'm using leveled readers (checked out from the library), custom flash cards, and lots of praise. He also needs to practice handwriting (always a struggle) and counting. To motivate the boys, I created a star chart. For every twenty stars, they get a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Lord, I despise that place, but it's really motivating them as planned.

For PT, we're going to our neighborhood pool as often as possible. Jack loves swimming--especially the "jumping into the water, climbing back out, and jumping in again" routine, which is great for building core strength.

Finally, we're taking on the summer reading club at our local library. I love the library, not only for the books but for the adventure of going each week and finding something new for the boys. They love it, it's free, and it's fun.

What are you doing this summer?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Growing up on the Spectrum

No question this week, but I found an intriguing book at the library and thought I'd share.

Growing up on the Spectrum: A Guide to Life, Love, and Learning for Teens and Young Adults with Autism and Asperger's
By Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D., and Claire LaZebnik
Viking Press, 2009

These women authored one of my favorite books on treating the disorder, Overcoming Autism. I'll not likely have time to read their new book for a while, but if it's half as good as Overcoming, it'll be hugely helpful.

Has anyone read it already? Any reviews would be appreciated. Also, if you know other books on the subject for teens and young adults on the spectrum, please share in the comments.