Monthly Archives: September 2013

Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Reading List For Parents and Adults Who Live On the Spectrum.

Like Sheldon, I like research.  Thus, books and therapies have been the topic of my latest blogs.  I have not tried any of the therapies myself but feel they are a resource worth looking into.

As for books, here is my personal rating of three recent reads.

1. Quirky Kids by Perri Klass MD and Eileen Costello MD.

Published in November 2003, this is the earliest of the books covered here, so some information may be outdated.  It is divided into three sections as follows:

1.  Noticing and dealing with difference in your child.  2.  Adjusting the home and school environment.  3. Science of Autism, including meds and other drugs.

What sets this book apart for me, is the inclusion of parental anecdotes which illustrate concerns, anxieties and solutions .

My take?  It’s a comforting book for parents of ASD children.

2.  Understanding Autism for Dummies by Stephen Shore and Linda Rastelli.

Truly a professorial approach, this book could be called “Everything you wanted to know about autism but didn’t know who to ask”.  

Because the author himself is a person with autism spectrum disorder, he writes about the syndrome in a very positive way.  Quite refreshing.  

Information wise?  Autism for Dummies is a 10/10.

3.  FAST MINDS: How to Thrive if you have ADHD or think you might.  By Dr Craig Surman and Tim Bilkey.  February 2013 first edition.

Latest in this list of books, I found this a most practical guide.  Take the logic behind my weird schedule for instance.  The authors explain how my habits more than my brain, keep me up late at night until the wee hours of the morning.

Thus I’m often exhausted which can lead to poor motivation to do anything.  Doing nothing when I have lots to do makes me feel out of control.  That can be depressing.

But the doctors also explain how forming new habits can change this pattern, and what new habits need to be developed.  (they also explain the brain science behind developing new habits).

So I figured out I like to write between midnight and 5 a.m. because there are far fewer distractions at that time.

However, this is only productive if I am getting enough sleep at other times of the day.

And thanks to FAST MINDS, I now know to slot sleep with other scheduled tasks.  In other words, I can be organized about being weird!  How great is that?

I really like this book.  It has opened a lot of mental windows for me, helping me to see where a lot of my issues stem from organically.

Therefore?  In terms of being helpful?   I’d give this book a 13 out of 10.

Yours so very truly,

Margaret Jean.

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The Social Story: Carol Gray’s Teaching Tool for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Unlike when I was a child, social skills training for children with Autism now abound.  New techniques are being developed and old ones revamped.  Techniques cover every approach from straight forward therapy to drama therapy and sports therapy.

In my research, I’ve noted that some highly experienced therapists and educators develop and hone their own training strategies over the course of their career.  Carol Gray is one such educator.

Based in Chicago, Gray has 22 years of experience working with children with ASD.  She found that what she refers to as ‘social stories’ are great tools for teaching children.  Stories tend to hold the child’s interest, especially if the child can easily relate to them.

According to Gray, each social story is crafted to suit one individual situation.  To develop an appropriate and effective social story requires research into the social situation creating issues for the child.

You can find some examples of social stories and the situations they were created to deal with at this website: and read testimonials at

And in my research, I have found that not all videos on You Tube describing themselves as social stories come even close to fitting the guide designed by Carol Gray.  I think it would be best to view the videos yourself first, and then decide if they would be truly helpful for your child or not!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

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Social Thinking: Strange New Worlds For People With ASD to Explore and Conquer.

Raise Your Hands–Perfect For Kids Going to School.

Researching topics for this blog always brings me to new and exciting research.  Although I must admit most of the new and exciting research has been developed over a period of several years.

This week I’m featuring yet another educator, Michelle Garcia Winner, who has developed a social skills training method which revolves around social thinking.

Winner’s website describes social thinking as:  . . .what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. And how we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions.

She goes on to state that while for most people the process of acquiring social information and communication methods develops naturally from birth on, there are many people for whom “this process is anything but natural.” (from

Garcia-Winner differentiates social thinking strategies from social skills training.  Workshops and seminars are available for both parents and professionals.

Social Thinking strategies teach individuals:

  • How their own social minds work – why they and others react and respond the way they do;

  • How their behaviors affect the way others perceive and respond to them;

  • And how this affects their own emotions, responses to and relationships with others across different social contexts.

For individuals being taught or treated the objectives of these strategies include the ability to:

  • Recognize that they and others have different perceptions and abilities to process social information;

  • Navigate their social thinking, social interaction and social communication toward more rewarding outcomes;

  • Learn to better adapt and respond to the people and situations around them.

This is an excellent website.  Enjoy exploring this new world of social skills concepts!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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27 Tuesday Aug 2013:  A Guest Blog

Posted by  at

When we began going to autism workshops and conferences, we found ourselves the subject of many sales pitches for the newest therapies that would produce miracles.

We also were sometimes pressured by parents in the local Autism Society to make a commitment to purchase a certain therapist’s services in order to “bring her to our community.” Enough parents had to participate in order to pay for her services to make it worth her while to come. Auditory integration training would cost $2,000 for a set number of therapy sessions. Music therapy was $100 an hour.

There were two problems with this.

First, we could not afford it. We were just scraping by as it was. Several options were presented – beg the money from our relatives, put it on a credit card, get a bank loan or a second mortgage on the house.

Second, which one of our children would we choose? Choosing them all was out of the question.Should we choose our gifted, disruptive autistic son or our quiet, multiply learning disabled autistic oldest daughter? Or our youngest, questionably autistic daughter? An impossible choice.

Therefore, we said no. As result, we were ostracized for not “participating for the good of all the children in the area.”

Instead, we chose to invent our own therapies out of ordinary life.

We listened to classical music in the house for our music therapy.

We were blessed by a piano teacher who was willing to try to teach my son. He enjoyed music, singing in tune with gusto. After a year, she noted that he had an aptitude for music. She taught him for 12 years. After that year, we ask her to teach our oldest daughter in order to improve her finger strength and coordination. I thought it might help her learn to hold a pencil. My youngest daughter wanted to do what her brother and sister did. This cost $10 a week per child – a pay as you go therapy.

We chose to take advantage of community subsidized speech and occupational therapy offered by Easter Seals and the Rehabilitation Hospital. These required small payments times three.

In spite of extended and persevering effort, learning to ride a bike did not happen. Instead, we found equestrian therapy – offered at a discount due to the generous donations of the community – also paying as we went. Our children were unable to ride a bike due to balance issues, but they were able to eventually learn to ride a horse independently.

These choices stretched us financially, sometimes heavily, but we made the sacrifices on a weekly, monthly basis.

Choices of “miracle therapies” with little proof of efficacy would have bankrupted us.

From Ann Kilter: Conundrum–Therapies That Worked For Us.

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ADHD–Think You Have It? What Do You Need To Know?

ADHD–we’ve all heard about it.  Parents, school teachers and special ed assistants talk about it all the time.  But if you’re an adult and think you might have ADHD, you might also be wondering  Do I really have to do something about it?  Isn’t it enough to just be aware that I need to focus more?

Fortunately, Drs. Craig Surman, M.D. and Tim Bilkey,M.D have worked with Karen Weintraub to write a really great guide for adults with ADHD.

FAST MINDS How to Thrive if You Have ADHD (Or Think You Might)  is a book built around an acronym that the doctors use to describe symptoms of ADHD.

F is forgetful.  A is Achieving below potential.  S is Stuck.  T is Time challenged.  M is motivational issues.  I is impulsive.  N is for novelty seeker.  D is for distractable and S is for scattered.

If any or all of those scenarios seem to apply to you, this book is very helpful.  And judging by the video that introduces this blog, FAST MINDS could be an essential read for adults with ADHD.

Another great video featuring Dr. Bilkey can be viewed at:

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