Shh...Mum is Thinking

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Book Tag

Thanks to both ABFH and Taffy at for tagging me :-D

One book that changed my life

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie. This was the first adult book I ever read. I found the book in my grandmothers book case not long after I ‘relearned’ to read at about age 8, read the first few lines then hid behind the sofa to continue, thinking I wasn’t supposed to read grown up books. I remember my grandmother laughing at me when she found me; why did I think I wasn’t allowed to read it!? She encouraged me to finish it even though I was struggling with the new-to-me pictureless format and the grown up vocabulary. I already loved books at that age, but this was my initiation into reading ‘real’ books, the kind you read from cover to cover and it hooked me for life.

After all these years, I still feel this vague whisper of my grandmother whenever I read Christie's books. Grandma loved her writing, too.

One book that you've read more than once

If I love a book I will ALWAYS read it more than once. The book I’ve re-read most, though, is Jane Eyre closely followed by the LOTR books.

One book you'd want on a desert island

The complete works of Charles Dickens because I’ve missed reading so many of them.

One book that made you laugh

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, all parts!

One book that made you cry

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

One book you wish you had written

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I love that book. It’s the only science book I ever read that made me laugh out loud. Bryson is like the Mark Twain of non fiction writers--you’d have to be a gifted writer to make science that accessible and enjoyable to the general public.

One book you wish had never been written

That’s a toughie as I’m not big on censorship. I mean, if I could wipe out the genre of romance novels from my personal reality it wouldn’t hurt me any, but I wouldn’t deny them to others.

Other than that…

Should we delete Mein Kampf from existence? Would it have helped to do so? If so, I wish it hadn't been written.

One book you're currently reading

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

One book you've been meaning to read

I started reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts a few months ago, had to put it aside about ¾ of the way through, then found I’d broken my connection to the book when I tried to pick up the thread. I want to go back and start from the beginning again, but it’s so big I’ve avoided it for the time being. It’s a great book, but at over 900 pages it seems like a huge commitment to start over!

Tag five other book lovers

Hm…I’ll try tagging Aspiebird, Autism Diva, Lisa/Jedi, Rose, and Andrea, but if any of you don’t have the time or inclination please don’t feel obligated!

Actually I’d love to see a list from anyone who’s interested--I enjoy reading these lists! So consider this an open invitation.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...


My son learned to tie his shoes by himself about 1 ½ weeks ago. This was after our practicing together for a very long time, with me showing him over and over where the loop goes, pinch its bottom (giggle) and take the other lace around, under and through. My big hands were always in the way, my big head blocking his view, he unable to bring his foot up close enough to see properly…oh it was so frustrating for us both!

Then last week, older son was waiting outside to ride bikes, and mum was busy (Just a MINUTE! I called…a few times) He went quiet…older brother came in…and they both started cheering from the next room. Hurray! He’s done it!

He’s tied his shoes by himself at least once a day since, and he’s is so proud he learned at a younger age than I did. Good to have a chance to lord it over your mum. Indeed :-)

Now I wonder…maybe I should have been too busy to ‘help’ sooner. I think I was confusing him. Gah.


We sit together daily working our way through our maths book. He seems to find maths easy for the most part. But. There is something fishy going on…

Our math books follow the state guidelines for curriculum. They have a set way of teaching things. It seems the goal is to teach the simplest addition and subtraction problems by rote memory, then build on that to move upwards to using two and three digit numbers. Problem is, my son doesn’t seem to add and subtract that way, and strangest of all is that he is following the same path of thought with his maths that I did at his age. Say you’re adding 5 and 7…take 5 from the seven leaving 2, add the two 5’s quickly, put the ten in front of the two. I didn’t teach this to him, and in fact didn’t realise he was doing it until a couple of months ago, when I overheard him whispering to himself while working a problem.

It’s not so amazing that he does this as it amazes me that I did the same thing at his age.

Which wouldn’t be so strange if there were all there was to that...for example there's


I was reading quite well in kindergarten. He was also reading at that age, not quite so well, but better than average.

Didn’t understand what the fuss was about when I was little. Neither did he.

But as soon as I went to first grade and the teachers insisted I read fone-et-ickly I lost the ability to read ANY thing, and didn’t regain the skill until 3rd grade.

My first grade teachers insisted I’d never known how to read, that I’d only learned to memorise a few Dr. Seuss books; my kindie teacher, parents and most importantly *I* knew different.

Phonics were my downfall.

They seem to be his as well. He hasn’t had the same dramatic loss of skills I experienced, perhaps because I’m not forcing him to SOUND OUT EVERY SINGLE WORD letter by letter as they did in my day and on failing phonetic reading he’s not being sent to remedial reading class after school as they did me (that was so humiliating after having been rewarded for reading in kindergarten).

But I know that he can read a word by sight quickly and easily, or struggle with it and more often than not fail to read it if I ask him to sound it out. We discuss and practice phonics but I don’t push it. has been a godsend in this area, it's a relatively pain free place to practice phonetic reading rules. Still, he relies most heavily on using beginning sound + context to help him work out new words, though I am seeing more use of chunking words into syllables, etc.

I wonder why we both had such similar strengths and weaknesses in this area.


Monster Vegetarians

Son and I were discussing different classifications of animals the other day. He likes this sort of thing and the discussion was going into new areas as they so often do.

We were discussing herbivores, omnivores, carnivores when he asked “Mum, what would you call a plant?”

So we talked about why plants and animals were broken into two different classifications…that plants make their own food, but everything an animal eats comes from another living being, either plant or animal.

He sat and tapped his pursed lips…I love it when he does that. It’s a sign something good is coming soon.

“Mum, if plants could think would animals look like monsters to them?”

Hm. Good question.

Maybe a stalk of celery would view us as ravenous beasts, horrid in our need to consume the energy of other living things. What a thought! So we discussed how plants have come to rely on animals in many ways, and in fact many plants would die out if there were no animal life on earth. (Just don’t try to explain that to a tree that’s been chopped down, I think, but don’t say.)

It really was a fantastical conversation, the kind you sit and think about after the kids are snug in bed at night. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes home education can be frustrating, tiring or boring, but there are moments when it’s just magic.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Homeschooling tag

Thanks to Sharon at for tagging me :-) of my favourite subjects!


Homeschooling the Child With Asperger Syndrome: Real Help for Parents Anywhere and on Any Budget by Lise Pyles. I read this before we started working on kindergarten curriculum three years ago. I didn’t find it useful so much for curriculum information or ideas, but simply reading the variety of approaches to home education gave me a sense of confidence as we started. I think I needed that extra encouragement towards flexibility and adapting towards my son’s needs rather than following a set curriculum or school of thought, especially at the beginning. I was entering uncharted territory and needed to hear there was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this, only things that worked for us or didn’t.


I’m tempted to say food colouring simply because we seem to go through buckets of the stuff for science experiments, playdough and other crafts!
Honestly, there’s not one resource we rely on very heavily. We get more use out of practical household items than any specially bought materials. Things we use daily: calendar, table clock, buttons for counters, wall maps, measuring cups and jugs, measure tapes and rulers. Stuff everyone has lurking somewhere about the house, basically.


The set of flashy workbooks that are supposed to follow our state curriculum. Each page is brightly coloured and has lots of visual pizzazz, which is probably why my son hates them with a passion. We didn’t use them long and went back to the more humdrum books we’d used before. Same curriculum but easier on the eyes.


The books from we printed out for our China studies were a huge hit with my son. He has such a passion for anything Chinese that he actually started reading and writing with more enthusiasm at that point. He loved trying to paint the Chinese characters for different words, too! We need to revisit Chinese studies sometime soon, methinks.


Our local swim centre for swimming and karate lessons.


A telescope.


A place to download all the basic wall poster stuff. Like good maps of the continents with countries, pie charts, days of week, alphabet, months, counting in different languages, etc etc. You can find those things in different places if you look, or you can make your own but it would be nice to have them all in one place, easy to find, easy to print out.


I must be hopelessly out of the loop LOL--I’ve never seen or heard of a homeschooling catalogue.


We visit a LOT of different educational websites, I wouldn’t even know where to begin narrowing the list down to just one! So I’ll pass on the two resources I’ve found recently, in case someone else enjoys them as much as we have (these are both downloadable programs): My kids are in love with this program!
The BBC site in general is a fantastic resource. PBS. ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) And so many others. Oh my. SO many!


Well, I don’t know who to tag! So I’ll just leave an open invitation to any homeschoolers out there, please, share with us! Leave a note in my comments section if you like…it’ll be fun!

By the way, I’ve turned on comments moderation for the time being. I hope ya’ll don’t mind…it’s just that I’m not too excited by the recent visit by ‘Mad Dog’ John Best JR--and after I posted my curbie kit, too (see my May 21, 2006 posting “No This Ain’t Your Playground”).

Some people just don’t get the hint, eh?

Guess we need more garlic.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Red Hat and Purple Dress Time"

“When a woman reaches a certain age, even if she is autistic, it becomes red hat and purple dress time and one forgets to mind every last one of one’s P’s and Q’s and be totally polite and vapid and ineffectual. I shall be Eccentric and noisy.”
--Patricia E. Clark, Autism Advocate

I love that quote..."I shall be eccentric and noisy".

After spending over 40 years struggling to fit in with the 'normals', and failing so spectacularly, it's nice to think I could just be myself--joyfully! myself at some point.

But as I was painting this, I kept thinking how nice it would have been to come to that point earlier in life. I'm shaking my head at all that wasted time, effort and emotion trying to be someone I'm not. If we were graded on our ability to achieve "NT-ness", I doubt I'd have gotten above a D- even on my so called best days.


And how about passing that legacy on to my children? That's an uncomfortable thought.

Why spend years struggling to push our little square peg into a round hole, shaving corners here and sanding pokey-out bits there, to end up with a not so perfect anymore square peg that STILL doesn't make it through that round hole. And feels he's less for it.


Red hats and purple shirts for us all, says mum.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

This is a Keeper

I have found myself complaining lately: "Where are all the parents of older autistic children? Why don't we ever hear their opinions and experiences in the media?"

And then today on Michelle Dawson's Quicktopic board

I saw a link to this:

...and I thought. Yeah. THAT'S what I need to hear. That's a keeper.

People don't understand autism

People who are not fortunate enough to live with a child who is autistic have no way of knowing the exquisite reality we are exposed to daily.

Those same people do not have the opportunity to experience the limitless intelligence and inquisitiveness of autistic children. History is replete with examples of how ignorance and intolerance have resulted in some of the worst episodes of inhumanity toward others - reservations for Native Americans, relocation camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II, institutionalization of people with brain disorders. Society has become so complacent about such matters that it is regressing to a point where such reprehensible aspects of history are repeating themselves. We simply refuse to acknowledge it.

My husband and I have three autistic teenagers. Our oldest graduated on the honor roll and is an Eagle Scout. Our middle child is a nationally published poet. Our youngest spearheaded a project that resulted in more than 1,000 gifts being delivered to a children's hospital in a Third World country. In what way are they defective? Where are their diminished capacities?

Yet, not even the most basic of services - an education to which they are entitled - are provided without attempts to make the autistic so uncomfortable that these exceptional youth have to consider suppressing it, as if autism was something to be ashamed of. People don't understand autism, so they fear and vilify those with the disorder.

I am sure of one thing, however. Our children will have the opportunity to succeed and live independently as soon as others realize that autistic limitations are no different than any other person's unique situation. And parents like us are the ones entrusted with that duty. It is our job to inform and educate society. It is then their job to open their hearts and minds.

Rochelle Dolim

Sometimes I feel so discouraged and worried at the attitudes we see towards autistics in the media and on the internet...worried that these negative stereotypes are going to haunt my son as he grows up and that they will make his life much harder than it should be.

When I read something like this letter I feel heartened that there ARE people out there who are trying to share their hard earned experience, to "inform and educate", and who understand the "exquisite reality we are exposed to daily".

I hope someone else out there will enjoy it as much as I do. :-)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

You are Cordially NOT Invited

Does anyone else out there feel extremely uncomfortable at news like this?
2006/08/01/island_party_funds_fight_against_autism/ (broken link)

Island party funds fight against autism

August 1, 2006

Nantucket nabobs feted NBC Universal bigshot Bob Wright and his wife, Suzanne, at the American Ireland Fund's cocktail party over the weekend. The power couple were commended for their ``Autism Speaks" initiative, a campaign they founded to find a cure for the undeclared epidemic. (The Wrights' 5-year-old grandson, Christian, is autistic.) ``Autism knocked on the wrong door," said Suzanne Wright. Not only did Deutsche Bank managing director Bart Grenier host Sunday's shindig at his Eel Point manse, but he ponied up $15,000 for the right not to address the assembled elite. Chaired by ``Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert and his wife, ``Vanity Fair" correspondent Maureen Orth, the posh party was attended by NBC White House correspondent David Gregory and his wife, Fannie Mae executive VP Beth Wilkinson, ``Hardball" host Chris Matthews and his wife, DC news anchor Kathleen Matthews, former PBS poobah Pat Mitchell, actor John Shea, Irish ambassador to the United States Noel Fahey, Democratic consultant Bob Crowe, Fidelity Investments vice chair Bob Reynolds, Boston Capital CEO Jack Manning, ``Cheers" owner Tom Kershaw, and model Hollis Colby. The event raised more than $100,000.

And look, they raised $100,000 for Autism Speaks! Bless their little cocktail guzzling hearts, ain't that grand.

I wonder how much of that will go to actually do something helpful for autistic people, and how much will go into research to make sure we don't exist anymore.

Do you suppose there were any autistic people there?

Oh, yeah, that's right, it was a party to FIGHT AGAINST autism...I guess that means we're not invited.

I think my blood pressure is going up.