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Book Review: Sensitive Sam visits the Dentist - written and illustrated by Marla Roth-Fisch

Sensitive Sam visits the Dentist is the second in the Sensitive Sam series. These are great multi-level books which are suitable for reading by young children, parents and professionals. 


The book starts off with a fairly straightforward story about Sam visiting the dentist. It touches on several of his anxieties but eventually he ends up enjoying his visit.

This first section is aimed at very young children and contains easy to understand words and activities. In fact, young children are encouraged to participate in the story by tracing the line that the car travels to the dentist and choosing the flavour of the toothpaste. It's all very engaging.

Along the way, there are numbered hints to parents. These hints refer you to pages in the back of the book, after the story.  They say things like "Show, tell and do. What does a dental hygienist do? Page 23).

Following the story, there are a series of tips for parents, numbered 1-15. As you would expect, the tip on page 23 has a p…

Article: Meltdown? Reduce Sensory Input, Reduce the Intensity

My latest post over at Special-ism is about reducing the intensity of meltdowns by reducing the sensory input.  Hop over to Special-ism for a read.


Meltdown? Reduce Sensory Input, Reduce the Intensity
by Gavin Bollard
http://special-ism.com/meltdown-reduce-sensory-input-reduce-the-intensity/


Over the years, I've written quite a bit about meltdowns on this blog. For a long while, they were very regular events in my life, they "owned" me and I hated them.  They followed me from early childhood through to adulthood.

Now they're quite rare (for me personally), though they're not rare in our house. I have two kids on the spectrum and the next meltdown is never very far away.



Here's a selection of my previous posts on meltdowns;


How the rules of relationships need to change to accommodate the needs of meltdown-prone adults - April 2012
Adult Meltdowns and the Problems of Restraint - April 2012
Less Confrontational Strategies for Approaching Children with Asperger's …

Why it is important to keep fighting for Autism Rights

This has been a very busy week in terms of autism rights and there have been a number of incidents which demonstrate very clearly that people with autism are not being treated with the respect that they deserve. 

History is full of stories of groups of individuals who were victimized for physical, economic, social or theological characteristics and while we still have a long way to go, constantly pointing out these issues has proven to be the best way to make progress towards an all-inclusive society. 

Autism is yet another of these groups but it's still in infancy. At this point, we're still fighting for acceptance and the concept of true equality hasn't really been considered.

It's important for us to continue to point out oversights and to correct thinking patterns which can whenever they arise.

The Murder of London McCabe
Last week, London McCabe, a six year old with autism who "loved hats, loved his parents, and was ‘all smiles'." was thrown from the Y…

Why is Empathy so hard for people with Asperger's Syndrome?

Empathy is often the worst and hardest part of any relationship with a person with Asperger's syndrome. You might feel that your partner lacks empathy entirely but if you could see inside their mind, you might be surprised to find that they are far more emotional than you are.  Obviously this isn't the case for everyone as we are all individuals but quite often people who display very little empathy are actually full of emotion.
So why then, is it so difficult for people with Asperger's sympathy to "show a little empathy"?
There are three major problems relating to empathy that can really cause problems for people with Asperger's syndrome;

Identifying Your Emotional State People with Asperger's syndrome have a huge amount of trouble determining your emotional state if you don't tell them specifically how you feel.  If you're crying, then most likely you're sad.  If you have a "sad face" on but no actual tears, then who knows.  
People …

Article: Change Your Child’s Behavior to Attract Less Attention

My latest post out at Special-ism is about changing your child's behavior to attract less attention. I'm always encouraging people within the autism community to be proud of themselves and to be themselves.  The problem is that behavior that is too far "outside the norm" can draw a lot of unwanted attention.

The best thing to do is to tread a cautious middle-ground and that's the point of the post, to show ways that normal autistic behaviors can be modified to become less noticeable.

Hop over to Special-ism for a read;

Change Your Child’s Behavior to Attract Less Attention
http://special-ism.com/change-your-childs-behavior-to-attract-less-attention/

Asperger's Syndrome and Religion

One of the strange things that I've noticed about people with Asperger's syndrome is that when it comes to religion, they often fall into the categories of all or nothing.

Of course, there's a plethora of individuality out there and not all people with Asperger's syndrome sit at extremes but there does seem to be a bit of a trend nevertheless.

The aim of this post is to highlight some general themes and trends that I've seen. I'm not sure how much of what I've seen is down to Asperger's versus general opinions on religion but I'll be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments.


The Highly Religious 
A highly religious person with Asperger's syndrome tends to be focussed mainly on the inward aspects of religion, such as prayer and good moral values. They may spend a lot of time perusing, memorising and quoting religious texts.

I've noted that direct involvement with the church, synagogue or clergy tends to be in the form of very small on-topic …

Choosing a New School for your Child with Asperger's Syndrome

Unless you were lucky enough to enrol your kids in a school which streams kids all the way from kindergarten to college and you remain in the same geographic area throughout these years, you will probably be faced with the prospect of selecting a new school at some point in your child's education.
It's not an easy choice to make under any circumstances but with a child on the autism spectrum, things are a little more complicated.
In this post, I hope to take you through some of the factors that you need to consider;

Qualities of the School The size of the school is always a difficult choice because on the one hand, you tend to think that your child is less likely to get lost in a smaller school. That the teaching staff will pay more attention to your child and that class sizes will be smaller, allowing more"one-on-one" teaching. There's also the fact that smaller schools aren't so overwhelming for your child. 
Unfortunately though,  smaller schools help your ch…

Book Review: "Autism, What does it mean to me?" by Catherine Faherty

"Autism... what does it mean to me: A workbook about self-awareness and life lessons for Kids with Autism or Asperger's". Revised and expanded 2nd Edition, by Catherine Faherty.

Autism,  what does it mean to me is a hefty quarto-sized volume of nearly 500 pages but luckily, the print is rather large. It is designed as a workbook for children with autism and it seems to contain questions about pretty much everything that you or your developmental pediatrician could want to ask about your child.

It's a stunning piece of work covering a vast array of topics ranging from innermost feelings, sensitivity and creativity through to friends, family, school and general emotional well-being.

Each chapter is clearly marked and starts with an introduction to the topic before it segues into a plethora of questions. After the questions, there is specific advice for parents on the various responses and on the topic in general. 
New to the second edition are sections directed at older c…

Article: Is Your Child a "Class Clown" to Gain Acceptance

My latest post over at special-ism is about the dangers of being the class clown.  There's nothing wrong with being "class clown" if you play it safe but sometimes it's not so easy to be safe. 

Click here to read the article.
http://special-ism.com/is-your-child-a-class-clown-to-gain-acceptance/

I was a class clown myself for many years and I still have my homework diaries full of fun commentary (and numerous reprimands from my teachers to prove it.  They were always telling me that "you don't have to be anyone else, just be yourself".  I never understood what they were saying - or why they were harping on about it at school but now it makes a bit more sense.

I even have a great written comment from one teacher which says "Gavin spends too much time making futile attempts to amuse his classmates. I would suggest spending more time be spent in the pursuit of knowledge"

(Yes, it has a grammatical error in it because the teacher had read some unsa…

Book Review: Crystal Puzzle by Ashley Nance

Crystal Puzzle: Growing Up with a Sister with Asperger's
by Ashley Nance

Crystal Puzzle is a very interesting book which offers a rather different point of view to the usual autism biography story. Normally these books are written by one of three people; the person with Asperger's Syndrome, that person's mother or that person's doctor. 
In this case the book has been written from the point of view of the sister (Ashley) of the person with Asperger's Syndrome (Crystal). 

What makes this approach so interesting is that both Ashley and Crystal grow up through the course of the book and as they do so, their points of view and opinions change. 
Fair Warning Before I start talking about the book, there are two things which I want to point out; Christian Language: There are quite a few instances in the book where Ashley talks very openly about religion and a couple of passages feel like sermons.  Since religion is a very personal thing, some people may find these parts a littl…

Understanding Depression

If you were to do a survey of people on the street, you would probably come away with a general consensus that depression means "feeling sad", an idea which is way off the mark. Questions about the frequency of depression would probably be answered more accurately though as most people would suggest that "everyone feels sad sometimes".

I've talked about depression and Asperger's syndrome before, in the very early days of this blog. Back then I talked about how common it was in people with Asperger's syndrome and what some of the possible causes could be. This time I want to look at what depression is and how to support people who live with it.

What does depression feel like?
It's hard to explain what depression feels like to someone who has never experienced it before but it's something that those of us who have loved ones with depression really need to understand.

Many people describe depression as a kind of "fog", or a hole. It's a…

The Fine Art of Cocooning and why it is important for people with Asperger's Syndrome

One of the "habits" I got into when I was growing up and sleeping in a single bed was the idea of cocooning myself using my doona or eiderdown.  The idea was that you lie down, rock over to one side (so that the blanket falls underneath you, then rock over to the other side (so the blanket gets stuck under there and finally lift your feet so that the blanket covers your feet and you can't move. It was also not uncommon to have the blanket pre-filled with stuffed animals.

When I got older and moved out of home - and even got married, these behaviors persisted (not the stuffed animals part of course) despite my wife's clear dislike of the idea.  I've tried to keep the blankets "normal" but I don't sleep as well. It's only relatively recently that I've realized that this is pretty much an Asperger's behavior.

Asperger's and Touch
I can't say for certain that this is common to all people with Asperger's syndrome but I've heard …

Book Review: "Born to Fly: Living with Autism" by Mary Anne Napper

Born to fly is a novella based on the methods and life of Cath McCarthy, a mothercraft nurse with experience taking care of "emotionally detached" children. It's clear from the outset that names and ages have been changed and that many of the background descriptions are fictional but that the methods and responses are not.

The novella format makes this story interesting and very easy to read. It can be read as a period drama with a very helpful message.

The story is told as a story within a story, essentially a journalist interviewing Ms McCarthy.

It starts in rural Australia in 1946 with the birth of Jamie, a boy who is later diagnosed with "gross mental deficiency", a term used before autism was widely accepted.

His parents are told by their doctor that "there can be no correction or improvement in his behaviour. He will never walk, talk or feed himself" and Jamie is committed to an asylum for the rest of his life.

To say more would ruin an amazing s…

How to help your Child with Asperger's Syndrome to Make Friends

"Who did you play with at school today?" Mother asks to which the the answer is a mumbled, "Nobody..." It's one of the most common problems faced by children with Asperger's syndrome and their parents.

Making friends is not easy - keeping friends is even harder. Back in November, I blogged about my own experience growing up and making friends but this time I want to offer some tips and advice for parents of children who are struggling with the whole friendship thing.


Getting Help Recognizing Friends
The idea of friend-making relies on a number of steps which are not necessarily instinctive in children with Asperger's syndrome. The first step of friendship is recognition, a step which contains two parts; facial recognition and name recognition.

Usually the former comes naturally although some children have "face blindness" and some have recognition difficulties when others change their hairstyle or other aspects of appearance. There were times wh…

How to do more for families with autism than just being "aware" of it.

The idea of an Autism "Awareness" day is fraught with problems. It suggests that people aren't even aware that autism exists, It's a very scary thought. It puts autism far behind most other forms of  disability.  There is no problem with the acceptance of blindness or deafness, of people with missing or damaged limbs or indeed, of most other mental and physical conditions. 

People have no difficulty believing in "invisible" (at first) issues like cancer, AIDS or MS but for some reason, the entire autism spectrum is subject to scrutiny. Everything from ADHD, to Aspergers to Autism is disbelieved.


Raising Awareness and Blue Light Bulbs
Raising awareness is a nice little idea which effectively means that people get to post little blue statuses or celebrate recognition because they've lobbied to light up national monuments in blue. The problem is that raising awareness of a condition does very little to improve the live of the people who live with it on a dai…

Article: Detect and Deal with Anxiety (on Special-ism)

My latest article on Special-ism which went live about a week or two ago (I've been very busy, sorry) is all about Anxiety.  

Following my review of Dr Edward Aull's book "The Parent's Guide to the Medical World of Autism", last month, I turned my thoughts to Anxiety and the different ways in which it manifests in children and adults. I also thought about the different ways that we deal with anxiety.

Head over to Special-ism to have a read;

Detect and Deal with Anxiety by Gavin Bollard
http://special-ism.com/detect-and-deal-with-anxiety/


Also, while you're there, have a look at Kimberley S. Williams article entitled "Invisible Anxiety: Hiding in the Classroom" which lists some common signs to look out for and ways that parents and teachers can get help and reduce anxiety in the classroom.

Book Review: The Parent's Guide to the Medical World of Autism by Edward Aull, MD

The Parent's Guide to the Medical World of Autism: A Physician Explains Diagnosis, Medications and Treatments by Edward Aull, MD Behavioral Pediatrician.
It was with great trepidation that I approached this book. I knew that it was an important topic but both the title and the cover make it seem like it would be a very tough read. Much to my surprise though, the first half is light and breezy and the second is too informative to put down.
This is essentially two books in one. The first half of the book is about diagnostic procedures while the second is all about medication.
The author, Dr Aull, is a Behavioral Pediatrician with over 30 years of experience treating and diagnosing patients on the autism spectrum. In this book he draws upon his experience to provide many real-world long-term examples of the effects of various medications.
Diagnostics  I enjoyed the first half of the book much more than the second because it was much more relatable and because it was far less technical.
Dr …