Anything But Typical (Book Review)

8 11 2010
“How do you show appreciation? Appreciation is an emotion. It’s a feeling. You can’t draw a picture of it. Why do people want everyone to act just like they do. Act like they do.
And if you don’t — If you don’t, people make the assumption that you do not feel what they feel.
And then they make the assumption– That you must not feel anything at all.”

 Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a Schneider Family Book Award winner, is wonderful in a confusing sort of way. It’s a story for adolescents written from the perspective of a 12-year-old on the autism spectrum.  It addresses friendship, outbursts, sensory issues, family dynamics and a boy’s first crush.

It deals with bullying.

“…He is laughing more. Louder.
‘You want to know what her name is?’ he is saying.
…My hair hurts. My chest is tight.
‘I bet her name is Retardo Girl,’ the boy says.
No, I am thinking. Her name can’t be Retardo Girl.
Can it?
‘And I bet she rides the little bus to school’
And then I figure it out. He is just being mean. When a dog gets mean and bites a person, it’s the law that they have to put that dog to sleep. This boy is being mean. He is lying. He doesn’t really know PhoenixBird. I have nothing to worry about. For some reason my head is still shaking.
But I can breathe.”

 This isn’t a pity party or some veiled attempt to explain to neurotypicals (NTs) what it’s like to have autism– although I think it does.

“My head exploded.
There was no way to stop all the molecules that started penetrating my skin.
My hands flew off my body.
My body flew into a million little pieces.
I could smell the fresh coffee that Aunt Carol and my mother had put up for desert as we hurried out the front door. I could smell the pastries she would have put out, and I wanted one.”

Anything But Typical is a story in its own right whose main character is an individual with his own history, his own likes and dislikes, his own wants, tastes and fears. 

It’s given me some insight into my 10-year-old and cautioned me about making emotional demands. I wouldn’t say that Anything But Typical is a must-read– but, it’s a good read that made me think.


I Threw Out Huckabee

28 09 2010

My parents like Mike. They are retired missionaries– as if that explains it… well, it sort of does. They would love to see a pastor in the White House– someone who believes as they do and is rather entertaining about it. They don’t vote by party but by person– and in the last election they voted for a couple of democrats although I think they passed on Obama. We try to avoid talking politics.

I’m a Democrat– middle to conservative– but, a democrat. I am pro-life– all of life: conception to dust, pro-fiscal responsiblity, pro-social programs– almost to the point of socialism– but not quite. I am a christian.

I used to think that Mike Huckabee was ok– a bit square and a little delusional– but, ok. His recent comedic rants about healthcare reform have put an end to my tolerance of the man.  My son is not a wrecked car… !!

Who can forget his plans for those who have HIV/AIDS?! (from

  • Called for isolating AIDS carriers in 1992, not quarantine. (Dec 2007)
  • Supports consumer-driven “medical IRA” with tax-free money. (Nov 1992)
  • No additional AIDS spending; cancer & vascular victims first. (Nov 1992)
  • Isolate carriers of this plague of AIDS. (Nov 1992)
  • It is not my place to judge Mike Huckabee– so I won’t. (But I did throw out his book.)

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. –Gandhi 

    On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me.” Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, “Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me.” These will ask Him, “When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?” And Jesus will answer them, “Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!”  (Mathew 25:40)  As quoted by Mother Teresa of Calcutta,  National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC Thur, 3 Feb 94.

    3 Ways to Put Money in Your Pocket– From Home with No Investment

    2 09 2008

    1. Gather up your books– the ones in good shape– and go to then type in your ISBNs and they’ll tell you how much they’ll give you for them.  You can print out the prepaid shipping label and all you have to do is box it up and drop it off.  They’ll send you a check or deposit the money into your PayPal account. I sold 6 books for $23. They turned down a bunch of books and there were a few that were selling for so little that I figured I’d get more than that in a yardsale and it didn’t seem worth the effort.

    *** Check this out*** Brandon sent a comment about comparing book buyers to get you the better deal– check it out! I ran a few of the books that turned down and was able to find buyers. I didn’t go through the whole process so I’m not sure how user friendly it is but at first glance it looks really great.  Please let me know your experiences.

    2. Become a Fashion Designer– go to and set up shop with your own designs– no sewing, no shipping, no nothin’. All you have to do is upload the image, select the items you want it on and maybe do a little tweaking.  They sell it, ship it and even do some marketing then send you a commission check.   Many of the designs are fancy fonts and do-able by anyone with MS Office.  (You can have either a simple free shop with one design — or many free shops– or pay about $7.00 for a premium shop with multiple designs.  Check out my shop at we just got a check for $62.

    3. PURGE.  Clean out your basement, attic, garage, kid’s room, your closet and have a garage sale or become an Ebay Seller. (Be careful on ebay! Look for tricks of the trade on-line before you post and make sure that you are very clear about what you will or will not do… being too easy to get along with might get you in trouble…) On the plus side– I made $2,000 in three months just by cleaning my house.

    Please share your ideas and experiences– Have you tried any of these? others?  How did it work for you? Advice? Words of caution?

    Parent Teacher Conference

    16 02 2008

    Well… we survived the latest Parent Teacher Conference. Academically J is at about 3rd grade although he’s in the 1st. Yeah! That’s my boy!  Socially… not so good.  He’s still having trouble interacting, staying on task and still has some outbursts although these are much farther apart than they have been.

    His teacher said that he is almost ready to be mainstreamed but in a “regular class” the teacher won’t be able to keep drawing him in; getting his attention. She asked if I had taken J to a neurologist… no. Not since early in his diagnosis.

    J’s teacher can’t diagnose for obvious reasons but, I find that she ends up not giving me helpful information because of these rules… Anyway, I blurted out– “Do you think he has ADHD?” She gave me the “statistically a lot of kids with Autism have ADHD” so it’s a possibility.

    Long story short: J is going to be screened for ADHD on March 6th.

    I love his teacher! The woman is worth her weight in gold! (And she’s no skinny minnie…) He had her in pre-school and we saw really great progress in him! She loves him and he loves her. She is wonderfully creative and interested in his progress.  But, she is tied to rules. Lots of rules. She can’t tell me outright what I need to do to help my child and that’s frustrating.

    On one hand I understand but on the other hand couldn’t I sign a “I won’t sue you or report you” form and let her speak freely?

    I want J to function as a productive, self reliant member of society so, if he has ADHD we’ll do what we need to do to get that under control. My understanding is that medication is effective and the only real treatment.

    If you read “J is sick” a week ago you’ll understand that I have real concerns about getting him to take anything. I don’t think there is a patch or taste-less version… ‘Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. (Any advice?)

    On the more positive side of the conference– J is reading at a third grade level! Yeah! We’re reading a chapter book together– his first one ever!! Junie B. Jones and the Sneaky Peaky Spying by Barbara Parks is such a cute book but, I can’t wait until we’re ready for Captain Underpants! That’s literature!

    Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew: Part 4; Literal Thinker

    19 01 2008

    This is the fourth part of of my series from the book I just finished reading. It’s Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew  by  Ellen Notbohm. The following is from the article by the same name:

    I am a concrete thinker.  This means I interpret language very literally.  It’s very confusing for me when you say, “Hold your horses, cowboy!” when what you really mean is “Please stop running.”  Don’t tell me something is a “piece of cake” when there is no dessert in sight and what you really mean is “this will be easy for you to do.”  When you say “It’s pouring cats and dogs,” I see pets coming out of a pitcher.  Please just tell me “It’s raining very hard.”

     Idioms, puns, nuances, double entendres and sarcasm are lost on me. This has been a real stumper for me– and for my parents.  Having grown up overseas, I don’t use a lot of slang in English but, I do joke around a lot. J is into Pirates these days– specifically; The Pirates Who Don’t do Anything.  He’s a little actor, and his primary method of communication is Echolalia– so, when he’s quoting the movie in the voice of Sedgewick, it’s pretty natural for me to call him Sedgewick– he corrects me every-time: “I’m not Sedgewick; I’m J.” His language is literal. It’s important to say what you mean– precisely what you mean. It doesn’t rain cats and dogs; it rains really hard. He isn’t my “Honey Bunny”; He is my favorite guy ever.  He dog isn’t “acting up”; He’s being naughty.

    When I realized that J didn’t understand my tone of voice it was a major adjustment for me and I started announcing when I was asking a question.  It’s my habit to get his attention– “Question” (In the inflection of a question– if he doesn’t look at me I tell him to look at me) “J do you want to go to the store with me?” This has been so helpful for us.  He knows when I ask a question– he has to respond and he does.

    This is important: When giving instructions you have to be specific. Seriously– this will reduce the number of meltdowns, get results faster and correctly.  Don’t tell him to clean up the mess– tell him to put his toys in his toy box and the dirty clothes to the laundry.

    J doesn’t get jokes. The Three Stooges are Funny (physical humor) but “Knock, Knock Jokes” (play on words– an orange is an orange– not “orange you glad I didn’t say banana again..” ) aren’t funny.  He knows that he gets a positive response from telling a joke and so he does it.  His jokes are memorized and have the same inflection as the person/movie/cartoon that taught it to him.  A few nights ago we had dinner with my mom in the nursing home where she is having therapy after hip replacement– Part way through dinner there was a short lull in conversation and J told his best joke; “What lies at the bottom of the ocean and shakes?” (He pauses appropriately, waits for a response.) “A Nervous wreck.”  Everybody laughed– even some of the people at the next table.  So, he told it again, and again…  He didn’t think it was funny but laughed along with everybody else because that’s what he was supposed to do. (NEVER discourage your child from experimenting with social conversation– if he falls into a loop; Help him get out of it. If he uses inappropriate language; steer him toward appropriate language. Do not reprimand your child for trying to participate in the social situation. More about Social Interaction in Part 8.)

    Keep promises. Your child needs to be able to believe what you tell him– literally. If you say you are leaving in five minutes: Leave in five minutes.  I’ve quit giving a time-frame because it’s just too hard to keep in a social situation; instead, I tell J what has to be done before we can go. “I need to finish helping grandma with the dishes. When I am done we can go.” Or; “Pack up your toys, Get your coat and give everybody hugs and kisses then we will go” I always make sure he is looking at me when I tell him what needs to be done and, I always keep my promises.

    I really do recommend reading this book– it’s been so helpful for us– No meltdowns this week!

    Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew; Part 3: Can’t or Won’t

    16 01 2008

    This is the third part of of my series from the book I just finished reading. It’s Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knewby  Ellen Notbohm. The following is from the article by the same name:


    Please remember to distinguish between won’t (I choose not to) and can’t (I am not able to).  

    It isn’t that I don’t listen to instructions.  It’s that I can’t understand you. When you call to me from across the room, this is what I hear: “*&^%$#@, Billy.  #$%^*&^%$&*………” Instead, come speak directly to me in plain words:  “Please put your book in your desk, Billy.  It’s time to go to lunch.”  This tells me what you want me to do and what is going to happen next.  Now it is much easier for me to comply.


    How easy it is to forget that our children hear differently than we do! It’s work to communicate with them– but, it’s much more work for them to listen/communicate with us… And, the payoff is worth the walk across the room, the insistence on eye contact, the demand for a response.

    Last night J was “off.” He wasn’t in tantrum mode but was extremely disconnected. He laid around, he didn’t want to eat, he didn’t connect with me when I spoke to him. His usual happy, singing, funny self was tired. But, when I tucked him in, took his face in my hands and told him that I love him– he told me that he loves me too.  That’s the pay off. That’s what makes all the work worth the hardship.


    My heart breaks for parents who’s children have never said those words. J was five before he said them… and I still remember like it was today. Don’t give up… Don’t ever give up! Remember– it isn’t that your child won’t– they can’t.

    Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew- Part 2; My Sensory Perceptions Are Disordered

    12 01 2008

    Here is part two of a ten part series from the new book I’m reading: Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm. The following is an excerpt from the article by the same name:

    My sensory perceptions are disordered.  This means that the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of everyday that you may not even notice can be downright painful for me.  The very environment in which I have to live often seems hostile.  I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you but I am really just trying to defend myself.  Here is why a “simple” trip to the grocery store may be hell for me:

    My hearing may be hyper-acute.  Dozens of people are talking at once.  The loud speaker booms today’s special.  Muzak whines from the sound system.  Cash registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder is chugging.  The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums.  My brain can’t filter all the input and I’m in overload!

    My sense of smell may be highly sensitive.  The fish at the meat counter isn’t quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn’t showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they’re mopping up pickles on aisle 3 with ammonia….I can’t sort it all out; I’m too nauseous.

     Because I am visually oriented (see more on this below), this may be my first sense to become overstimulated.  The fluorescent light is too bright; it makes the room pulsate and hurts my eyes. Sometimes the pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing — the space seems to be constantly changing.  There’s glare from windows, too many items for me to be able to focus (I may compensate with “tunnel vision”), moving fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion.  All this affects my vestibular sense, and now I can’t even tell where my body is in space. In the book she talks about feeling like you’re always on a roller coaster– fun for three minutes but can you imagine going through your daily routine on a roller coaster? Making coffee alone would be enough to ruin your day…

    In light of Sensory Disintegration– I am so proud of my J! He handles the off-kilter-ness of his world so well!  I’d be hideous!!  (And, my husband who moans for hours over a hangnail… yikes! What would he be like?) So, J’s outbursts aren’t rebellion, manipulation or bratty-ness– they are genuine cries for help– “Get me out of here”, “End my suffering!”

    There are lots of different manifestations– Hyper-sensitive (Clothes hurt, the washing machine is too loud, the light is too bright…) and Hypo-sensitive (Yearns for deep pressure, louder, brighter, harder). J is Hypo-sensitive. He likes walking barefoot in gravel and loves to wrestle. He also is a recovering headbanger.  Identify what your child is– and work with it…

    I believe that J will be a productive part of society and this book– the information in it– is a stepping stone. I highly recommend it to all who live with Autism– parents, teachers, grandparents, ministers, Sunday school teachers, lifeguards at the Y… It is up to us– the guardian’s of these kids to provide the people in their lives with this information.

    An article by the same name is available on-line.