Which Students Need Social Learning Groups?

Diane Levinthal www.SocialStrides.com Unless a child is diagnosed with a learning disability that is known to affect social interaction, issues can take parents by surprise. All of a sudden, we notice that the same children who played alongside peers in daycare are now alone at recess during the early elementary school years. They want friends and try to interact with peers but without success. At this age children engage in cooperative play and interactions are based on peer choice, not just who happens to be in the class or in a playgroup mom selects. Now they must be able to read the subtleties of verbal and nonverbal language and tell the difference between literal and non-literal language across people (authority figures, peers, family, acquaintances, friends) and settings (school, community, home). We take this ability for granted, but it is an awesome leap in development. We expect them to absorb the…

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Back to School

KAL autismtwins.blogspot.com I am alone for the first time in months. Hello silence! How I’ve missed you. Which also means: Hello self! There you are! How are we feeling about being alone? Should we eat some ice cream or should we write. I’ve carried half-written posts around in my head all summer, never finding the space or time to sit down and share them. My boys turned seven. We had a lovely family vacation and I sank into brief breaks here and there — a book on the beach, a stroll on the sand — but nothing quite beats the sound of silence for this weary mom. Back to school brings with it the familiar angst, the wringing of the hands, the transition to something new. We’re in second grade. The amount of worrying I do as back-to-school ramps up is ridiculous. Ridiculous. It helps when I hear that I’m…

On “Social Blindness”

Sarah Seymour www.allkidshavespecialneeds.net Two Facebook friends who I am blessed to know (and who happen to be on the autism spectrum) made the following comments: “[Simon] Baron-Cohen says autistics are ‘mind (socially) blind” … but… who is blind?… according to Temple Grandin, neurotypicals are “sensory blind”… seems we are all pretty blind… but at least many of us autists are making great efforts to see outside ourselves… how many of you neuro…typicals can claim to match our efforts????” “I agree. 🙂 See more in the article Q&A: Temple Grandin on Autism & Language on NPR. Autistic people can be isolated, Temple Grandin says, not only because they have difficulty making a connection with so-called “normal” people, but because normal people find it difficult to put themselves in an autistic person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective.” I thought the differences they pointed out were so interesting. Having a…

Lessons from Season 10

Joan T. Hocky Expectation: The act or state of looking forward or anticipating Surprise:  To strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment Two stories: 1. A girl grows up in Port Arthur, Texas. On the surface, she has a nice, middle class life: dad is an engineer, mom is a registrar at the local college and she has two protective older sisters. But life is anything but easy. She’s overweight with acne and long stringy hair and the kids in school all tease her for being ugly and weird. She spends hours every night holed up in her room, listening to Bessie Smith sing the blues and imagining life as an artist or musician, somewhere far away from where she lives. She finishes high school, goes off to college (UT Austin, the flagship school), but things are no better—even in a big university town. Lonely…

Motivation, Middle School, and iPad Cool

Elaine Park   Our house is frequently really loud, as my seventh grade son, Drew*, races his long fingers at break-neck speed and top volume, up and down the piano, pounding out the Imperial March from Star Wars or some original composition of his own. His fingers are fast and strong, dexterous and coordinated. They are equally skilled at piecing together intricate creations out of his world-class Lego collection. But because of a neurological quirk, this same child can’t tie his own shoes and has difficulty writing with a pencil or pen. He has a lot to say and wants to share it, but the frustration of handwriting often reduces him to despair, and is a frequent problem when it comes to completing language arts assignments. Like many parents of a child on the autism spectrum, I hope this can be resolved by his learning to type. Once Drew has…

ASD and Giftedness: Twice Exceptionality on the Autistic Spectrum

Corin Barsily Goodwin http://giftedhomeschoolers.org Mika Gustavson MFT http://www.mika-mft.com/ Editors’ note: “Gifted” — meaning a person of substantially above-average intellectual or cognitive abilities — has various meanings and implications across the English-speaking world. In the US, education is publicly funded and provided from kindergarten (approximately age 5) through 12th grade (approximately age 18). There have been various federal and state programs and mandates addressing the educational needs of “gifted and talented” children in public school, which have generated various definitions and dividing lines. One of the central concepts in the English-speaking world about “giftedness” in children is “asynchronous development” — the child is in some domains developing in a range of normal for his or her age; and in other domains, is far ahead of same-age peers. A key concept in “giftedness” is exceptionality — the child who is gifted is rare — “one in a hundred thousand” or “one in…

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I’m an Embarrassment

Carol Greenburg aspieadvocate-ascd.blogspot.com I don’t have much in the way of shame. I’ve learned enough social skills over the years to not to embarrass friends, family, or even complete strangers as often as I used to, but my Inappropriate Meter isn’t entirely consistent. So hang around with me for a moment or for years and risk blushing. Sometimes people do bad things, so I suppose I can justify my tactless exposure of their misdeeds as a kind of karmic justice. Then again, sometimes people make innocent mistakes and I make everything worse by pointing out their faux pas. I try my best not to be the source of hurt, and try to have faith that most adults are able to forgive whatever role is I play in their discomfort. But I worry about embarrassing kids, in particular my autistic son. Yeah, I know some parents of autistic kids worry about…

Raising Asperger’s Kids: Generalizing the Specifics

Elise aka aspergers2mom asd2mom.blogspot.com A primary issue for children on the autism spectrum is generalization: the ability to take what they learn from one situation and apply it in a totally different scenario. The scenarios may not even be all that different, but introduce a new dynamic or remove a familiar item, and the child can get thrown off kilter and lose the resources they just learned. It’s similar to the issues my younger son, HSB, has in math. When given a math formula and the appropriate number equivalents for the algebraic letters, he is able to apply the formula and even understands the reasoning and purpose. But if he is required to take that formula and apply in an unfamiliar word problem or with an unfamiliar set of numbers, he will get lost. He is not able to generalize the specific information that he learned for that math equation.…

Inclusion: Make It an Open Classroom Discussion

Diane Levinthal http://www.socialstrides.com Sensitivity and compassion can result from having kids with autism and social challenges included in regular education classrooms. It is also likely that there will be no choice other than inclusion, financially, in the future. Classrooms will have to accept differences (and I write this knowing that every child is “different”). How do we make inclusion positive for everyone involved? I taught in a district autism spectrum inclusion project, have worked in speech for 25 yrs, and have a middle school child with PDD/ADHD. In my experience, what is important and overlooked is that regular education peers are not given good information. The teachers are trained (supposedly) as are the other staff, but the kids themselves are told little besides “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It has been my observation that in kindergarten and early elementary school, most kids are either…