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.

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Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew: Part 6– I am Visual

26 01 2008

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

Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented.  Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me.  And please be prepared to show me many times.  Lots of consistent repetition helps me learn.

 A visual schedule is extremely helpful as I move through my day.  Like your day-timer, it relieves me of the stress of having to remember what comes next, makes for smooth transition between activities, helps me manage my time and meet your expectations.  Here’s a great website for learning more about visual schedules: www.cesa7.k12.wi.us/sped/autism/structure/str11.htm. We figured out the visual learner several years ago when we stumbled upon the Rock and Learn series– Letters & Letter Sounds and Phonics were our first two. J spent hours watching how the mouth on the video formed the sound and– he learned how to make the sounds! It was the first step toward talking… We did have some disagreement with J’s speech therapist who didn’t think TV was good for him– but, we’re the parents and she didn’t live with us so we won! (She was wonderful and we’d still be with her if we hadn’t moved.)

TV, in my opinion is a tremendous tool for communication and learning.  We’ve always been pretty careful about what he watches– fortunately he isn’t interested in stuff that wouldn’t be good for him.  On the few occasions when we saw behavior changes in him like when he was watching Samurai Jack– we removed it from his repertoire and order was restored.  Also, J turns on the subtitles and reads along with with the movie. I realize that some of it is memorizing but he has learned a lot of “bigger” words as a result of context within a movie’s scene. Anyway– do with this as you will but it is our belief that TV (more specifically movies) have been good for our J.

We just brought back visual schedules. I’m no artist– and J reads well so, I make a to-do list rather than a picture schedule for after school until bedtime.  I attach a sheet of stickers to it so he can mark each item as complete and, if all things are done, he gets two stickers on his chore list (good for a prize on Saturday morning if he has all his stickers and/or bonus stickers. It works really well for J.

We’ve also found that at the early on set of a meltdown– when he isn’t listening anymore and is becoming more and more frustrated we can dissipate the situation with a written not explaining in very simple terms what we are trying to tell him.

Please share some of your tricks– what works for you as far as visual communication? I’d also welcome you to leave comments on the other sections of this series to share what your experience has been and what has worked for you.