Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism

“I hear autistic people are brilliant”. “Is your son like Rain Man?” These are comments I hear when people learn that my eldest son is autistic. A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism is a memoir about life with an autistic son, Matthew, written from a mother’s perspective. It answers the many questions that people have about autism through the story of Matthew’s life, from the tender years of diagnosis to young adulthood. A Regular Guy illustrates the many ways in which family, friends and strangers are touched by Matthew’s profound desire to be a regular guy, and how his brutal honesty and social awkwardness bring out the best and worst in people in touching and humorous ways. In turn, A Regular Guy leads readers to love and accept Matthew, quirks and all, and inspires them to understand and tolerate the differences in others.

About Laura

Laura Shumaker is the author of A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism and is a City Bright for the San Francisco Chronicle. She has contributed to several anthologies, including Voices of Autism, A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs, Writin’ on Empty, and the forthcoming Gravity Pulls You In. She is a regular contributor to NPR Perspectives and a columnist for 5 Minutes for Special Needs. Laura’s essays have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa Times, Literary Mama, the East Bay Monthly, The Autism Advocate and on CNN.COM.

Laura speaks regularly to schools, book and disability groups.

She lives in Lafayette, California with her husband Peter and her three sons.

Laura Shumaker describes the book:

"A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism is a memoir about life with my autistic son, Matthew. It answers the many questions that people have about autism through the story of Matthew’s life-and our family’s life- spanning from babyhood to young adulthood. The story tells the many ways in which family, friends and strangers are touched by Matthew’s desperate desire to be a regular guy, and how his brutal honesty and social awkwardness bring out the best and worst in people in touching and humorous ways. Those who’ve read the book have told me that the book inspired them to understand and tolerate the differences in others."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Autistic Basketball Phenom Inspires Cornell Team

Our last blog post was about teaching you Autistic child basketball. Soon after we saw a very inspiring story of Jason “J-Mac” McElwain. Below is an article from The Autism News.

‘J-Mac’ Secret Weapon of Cornell Basketball Team During NCAA Tournament

By David Muir and Christine Brozyna

If Cornell is this year’s Cinderella story at the NCAA tournament, than Jason “J-Mac” McElwain certainly would be its prince.

J-Mac, who has autism, first captured the heart of the nation four years ago when, in the last game of his high school basketball team’s season, he was given his first chance to play. In just four minutes, he scored six three-point shots and finished with 20 points. He even tied the school record.

One of J-Mac’s admirers is Cornell basketball coach Steve Donahue, whose own son, Matt, has autism. Donahue reached out to J-Mac after that electrifying high school basketball game and the two have stayed in touch ever since.

“It was one of the greatest inspirational stories I had ever heard,” Donahue said. “Jason was having so much fun and enjoying the experience. It made me really happy that one day my son could have kind of experience as well in his high school.”

This year, J-Mac, now 21-years-old, joined Donahue at the NCAA tournament selection. In addition, he’s been calling and texting Donahue with advice for the team — including how to beat top NCAA teams Temple University and University of Wisconsin.

“Jason’s advice is unbelievable. The kid is on the money,” Donahue said. “What better way to motivate our guys then to have Jason come in and talk to them. He’s got a lot of great ideas and always ends them with an inspirational thought. I love hearing from him.”

Still, J-Mac, who is not a student at Cornell, is humble about his involvement with the team.

“I’m not taking anything away from the team,” J-Mac told ABC News.

But it was J-Mac’s text in the final minutes of the Wisconsin game that has had the most impact. It read, “If you don’t dream to become a champion, you won’t become a champion.”

Moments later, Cornell won again.

As J-Mac’s story continues to unfold, a new chapter is developing for the inspiring young man. He’s decided to turn his attention to the sidelines, and in addition to giving advice to the Cornell basketball team, he volunteers as a junior varsity assistant coach for his alma mater — Greece Athena High School in New York state. Next year, he’ll help with the varsity team.

He also works a job in the Greece, N.Y., area.

In the meantime, J-Mac continues to dole out advice to the Cornell team.

“I’ve been a part of many comebacks,” he said. “I’ve been a part of teams that have come back against us. I told them you have to finish the game.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Teaching Your Autistic Child Basketball

Basketball is a great sport for kids to play. It is safer, requires less physical prowess and is less complex than many other sports. It is true that it requires some depth perception and height is a key benefit, but it is a great choice at early ages, and giving your child the experience of playing a sport will be a memory they keep forever.

It is very common for autistic children to have little interest in sports related activities, for example, basketball. When they are very young, they often start out with some interest, and will join a basketball team. After some time, the child may loose interest in venturing out on to the basketball court, or eventually may not want to attend practices or games at all.

This can be very frustrating to parents, especially fathers or grandfathers that have fond memories of playing basketball and the life-long friendships they made being part of a team.

It is still possible for many autistic children, especially aspergers type, to have an interest and play basketball. What is important is that you do not have expectations that your child is going to follow of the traditional rules and expectations that most children do when joining a basketball team and learning the game.

In fact, you may have to consider strictly recreational non-team style play. If your child is not able to follow and focus on the instructions, and is not responding well to the coach or other players, it may be time to consider going a different route. It is much more important that your child is happy and feels accepted, especially by the parents than you being happy that your child is part of a basketball team.

If you find that the team style basketball play is not working, consider having a regular play at home, or at a local park. Be sure to give your child some time away from the sport before doing this as it may not be received well.

When your child starts to show some interest, be sure to keep things free-form. Do not worry about all the rules, skills, techniques and such. It is important to simply have the child enjoy the time spent with you, which happens to also be time spent holding and hopefully throwing a basketball.

You might simply try passing the ball back and fourth. Possibly bouncing the ball off a wall. Make some fun games such as try to dribble the ball three times in a row - if you succeed, the parent has to jump around like a silly frog!

Later you can slowly add little modifications such as a tip on how to pass the ball, or where to aim when throwing the ball for a layup. Again, take it slowly, and always make it positive. If you add criticism, or lots of rules, it is very likely your autistic child will loose interest quickly, and in fact may resent the sport completely.

HERE is the source for this article

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Understanding and Encouraging a Child With Autism

Social success, for your child with autism, is comprised of the following elements:

• Reacting to others

• Knowing and choosing when to apply specific social skills

• Choosing what words to say

All this social success depends on our own ability to "read a situation." Neurotypical persons naturally interpret what is going on in other's faces, gestures, and adjust their own behavior accordingly. It's like ants who communicate with each other by touching antennae. The challenging part for children on the autism spectrum is that it's as if they are missing their social antennae.

Social antennae are akin to the term "social inferencing," which is comprised of the following components:

1. The meaning of spoken words.

2. How a person's body language contributes to the overall meaning.

3. How a person's facial expression contributes to the overall meaning.

4. How a person's eye contact contributes to the overall meaning.

5. The person's overall intent or motive.

6. How the social context and social environment helps us better interpret all of the above.

Children, teens, and adults on the autism spectrum often have very strong academic smarts, but they need help in bridging the often confusing social divide. The following is an exercise taken from Michelle Garcia Winner's book, Thinking About You Thinking About Me:

This exercise can be used in a group, working with siblings, or working 1:1 with the child as a parent, teacher, or therapist.

Pretend that you are forming a detective agency. Teach the child (or children) about what detectives do: first they must find the clues, and then they must make a smart guess to try to solve the problem.

Here are some activities that can be part of forming the detective agency:

1) Pretend to be a detective. Dress in make-believe detective hats and parents' suit jackets.

2) Find different types of clues: concrete and absract

a) Concrete clues:

1. Make a series of written clues, each leading to the next clue, so that they can ultimately find a hidden object. This is essentially like a treasure hunt. For example, in a summer camp, the kids' snacks were hidden, and they were given clues to find their own snack. This lays the groundwork for small guesses, and for making inferences.

2. Children can make their own clues. This gives the child or children experiencing in being able to think about what information the other person who is searching will need in order to find the hidden 'treasure.' If a parent is present in the therapy session, the parent or therapist can work with the child to write the clue in a way that is not going to be too hard or too easy.

3. There are books in the library that you may be able to check out in order to help children research the more abstract clues in detective work. Spy's Guide Book, (Sims and King, 2002) and The Detective's Handbook (Civardi, Hindley, and Wilkes, 1979) can be utilized to help kids understand how to be detectives, and how to look for more subtle clues. Topics such as wearing disguises, changing your walk, and hidden messages, all of which provide chances to teach children about body language, facial expression, toney of voice, and paying attention to what is going on around you.

3) Use DVD's. You can use DVD's, commercials, and TV shows to make 'smart guesses' about what will happen next. The child you are working with can use environmental or non-verbal cues to make guesses about what will happen based on the information already provided. Discuss how the information helped them make a guess.

4) Write clues and messages in different ways; use secret codes to reframe information. This will help the child develop the cognitive flexibility to see that all information is not presented exactly as it is to be understood. There is a book, Secret Codes (O'Brien and Riddell, 1997), that can be helpful in helping you come up with these codes.

The idea of the detective games is that it helps develop a vocabulary and environment that makes inferencing and smart guessing fun activities. Imagine, taking something that a child is not naturally good at, and making it fun to learn. Thank you, Ms. Michelle Garcia Winner, for these wonderful ideas!

Article Source: http://ezinearticles.com/?Understanding-and-Encouraging-a-Child-With-Autism&id=4147019