Tuesday, May 28, 2013

11 Things Gilligan's Island Taught Me About Parenting Autistic Kids


by Bec Oakley at snagglebox.com

When life lands you on a deserted island,
don't get angry... make a hammock!

1. It’s never a three hour tour
The weather could start to get rough at any moment, so keep an emergency bag in your car at all times with a spare pair of clothes, some distractions, snacks and a juicebox.

2. Coconuts have a zillion uses
You don’t have to go broke buying special therapy materials. Rubber bands, old containers, cardboard boxes, velcro, buttons, twist-ties, bottle caps, pegs... you can definitely make do with stuff you already own.

3. There’s another side to the island
Having autistic kids can make you feel isolated - nobody understands what you’re going through and it’s hard to get out of the house. There’s a world out there that’s bigger than autism (and people who can help might be closer than you think)... but you’ll never find it if you don’t look.

To continue reading, click here....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How To Help Autistic Kids With Play

By Bec Oakley at snagglebox.com

The way autistic kids play is often called unusual because it’s different to what you see in typically developing kids - there’s less role playing, they can become obsessed with a particular type of toy or just one part of it and often play with objects that aren't traditionally considered to be toys.

But is that a problem? When should we be lending autistic kids a hand with their play, and how do we do that?

What's the point of play?

We play for a lot of different reasons - learning, exercise, stimulation, entertainment - and it’s no different for autistic kids. They’re learning and exploring the world, testing out ideas and plain old having a good time - but it’s just not always in the way that we might expect.

Spinning the propeller on a toy helicopter over and over might seem boring and purposeless to many kids, but for others it's really exciting. It feels good and sparks their curiosity about stuff like air currents and the patterns of sunlight through the dust... to them it’s a functional, purposeful way to enjoy and explore the world.

So finding enjoyment and stimulation in things that most people consider odd isn’t the bit where autistic kids might need help.
To continue reading, click here....

Thursday, May 16, 2013

17 Cool Gift Ideas For Aides And Therapists

by Bec Oakley at snagglebox.com


Giving your kids' classroom aide, therapists and other support people a gift is a wonderful way to thank them for all the hard work they’ve put in. They have a super hard job and the pay is crap (really, it’s shameful), so a little appreciation goes a long way - and unlike the teacher, they usually don’t receive a lot of gifts.

So whether it’s Christmas, the end of the school year or their birthday (heck, why not just randomly surprise them one day?) here's a bunch of cool ways to say thanks.


1. An interview scrapbook
Make your gift a souvenir of the time they've spent together. Prompt the kids to relive memories with questions about the things they've done over the year:

  • Miss Thompson is funny when...
  • I like it when Miss Thompson does...
  • Miss Thompson taught me to...

  • You might be surprised at some of the answers! Compile them into a scrapbook with drawings, photos or work samples.

    2. Photos
    Don’t just put one lonely picture in a frame, make a series with a shot from each month or the beginning and end of the school year to show how far the kids have come.
To read more, click here.....

Monday, May 13, 2013

Summer Brain Drain

Summer break is almost here, and my kids have a mile-long list of things they want to do this year.  It includes things like visiting our local pool, taking a trip to Holiday World (which I am seriously looking forward to!), and gulping gallons of ice cream at our local hot dog joint.

My list, which I have yet to officially share with my kids, includes things like reading and math practice, science projects, and chores.

You can probably see why I haven't shared that with the kids yet.

I want summer to be fun, but I want to avoid summer brain drain.  The kids have worked really hard at school this year and I do not want them to lose ground while lazing about in the summer sun.  Danny especially has struggled to learn some major concepts.  And his reading has improved tremendously.  The last thing I want is for him to lose the ground that was so painstakingly gained.

You may think I'm overreacting, but according to the RIF website, the "summer slide" is serious:

"Something is waiting for many children every summer, and their parents don’t even know it’s out there. It's called the 'summer slide,' and it describes what happens when young minds sit idle for three months. Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates. RIF provides resources for parents and teachers to keep kids reading throughout the summer and beyond."  (To read more, click here.)

So, I decided I needed a plan.  But where to start?  I don't have time to concoct elaborate plans for building volcanoes or making cute sticker charts.  I needed some direction, which is why I was so delighted when I received an email about this very topic.  As I scrolled through the links in that email, I discovered a treasure trove of resources for families, which I have decided to share with you!

Here they are in no particular order:

This awesome article gives you 10 Weeks of Summer Reading Adventures and it includes some really fun, but simple ways to get your kids working on their literacy skills.  The list includes activities like the following:
  • Start a summer scrapbook and include souvenirs, photos, and projects from the summer.
  • Design your own stationary and write to a friend.
  • List all the ice cream flavors you can think of and then alphabetize them.
  • Plan a backyard camping trip with a friend,  List all the things you will need to survive.

Another site that provides some cool ideas is National Summer Learning Association
Activity Resources.  This list includes a bunch of websites that provide activities, like the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, and RIF's page.

"Summertime and the Learning is Easy" is full of great ideas to get your kids reading, even those who may be less than excited about the prospect.  The author suggests finding a series your child enjoys, introducing them to magazines, and using books on tape.  She also gives some great tips about writing.

Read, Write, Think is a great resource for parents and teachers.  Their website says, "Here at ReadWriteThink, our mission is to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials."  Their site is broken into grades, so you can look through whichever ones that apply.

Thinkinfinity is a site that has some interesting lesson ideas for teachers that should be adaptable for home as well.

Fresh Brain is a site designed for teens that provides fun projects, including building a video game.

What about you?  Do you have any great sites or books you'd like to share?  Please leave a comment and tell us what your plans for the summer are!

If you live in Illinois and would like more information on teaching reading or summer activities, please call Family Matters at 866-436-7842!