Saturday, April 30, 2011


Congratulations to our winner!  Out of 191 fans, Angie won our drawing! Her son sounds like a great match for seamless socks and undies.  We cannot wait to hear how he enjoys them!  Our winner will receive three pairs of  SmartKnitKIDS seamless socks and a pair of seamless undies! Thank you so much for liking us on Facebook and for checking out our blog! Stay tuned for our next contest!!

Happy autism awareness month and keep spreading the word!

- Abby and Molly

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Autism Awareness Resources for Children

During autism awareness month it's important that we not only think about educating other adults about ASD, but also educate children about Autism/Asperger's. The first book I'll mention is called Brotherly Feelings: Me, My Emotions, and My Brother with Asperger's Syndrome by Sam Frender and Robin Schiffmiller. I first had the pleasure of meeting Sam at a sibling workshop that we put on during one summer. He was a delightful young man and I remember being amazed by how insightful he was for a child his age! When he was 8 years old he wrote this book, along with his mother about what it's like to grow up with a brother with Asperger's Syndrome. In the book Sam first describes what Asperger's Syndrome is and then talks about all the emotions associated with having a sibling on the spectrum, such as a feeling of protectiveness, sometimes embarrassment, unconditional love, etc. He provides examples of why and when he feels the range of emotions and then talks about how he lets his feelings out. This is a great resource for elementary age kids with a sibling on the spectrum-- it's not too wordy and fun illustrations accompany the text. It teaches young children that it's o.k to experience these emotions and to talk to others about how they may be feeling.

Another great book about autism awareness is called the Autism Acceptance book: Being a Friend to Someone with Autism by Ellen Sabin. This book is in the form of a workbook that kids can write or even draw in. It's very educational and is broken up into the following sections:

What Is The Autism Acceptance Book? (How it Works..)
Take a WALK in Someone Else's Shoes 
What is AUTISM?
YOU and YOUR FRIENDS with Autism
GROUP Activities/ EXPRESS Yourself 

In a child-friendly way, the author describes how all people are different from one another and how great it feels to be accepted and included by others. The next section describes what it may be like to have autism and encourages kids to think about what things might be harder or easier for you if you had autism. Then, it discusses ways to be a friend to someone with autism and how to raise awareness by educating other friends and even donating to an autism organization. The pages are extremely colorful and engaging. This would be a great resource for peer mentors in schools or as part of a lesson plan for students, especially during Autism Awareness month. 

I found the Autism Acceptance book at Barnes & Noble but you can also get both of these resources online at

- Molly

Friday, April 22, 2011

Raise a Glass to Autism Awareness

To further our Autism Awareness and support, why not give a toast to the cause?  Depending on where you live this red wine may or may not be readily available.  On the bottle I purchased it did not specify what organization would receive support but something that I had to research after the fact. 

One Hope Wine is a brilliant concept.  Purchase wine to support the cause of your choice, in this case autism.  After contacting the company and reading more recent information they updated on their site here are the specifics:
WINEMAKER ROB MONDAVI JR. - ONEHOPE Cabernet Sauvignon is hand-crafted and made from a blend of grapes sourced from select vineyards throughout Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and California’s Central Coast in partnership with Rob Mondavi Jr. The dark, ruby red Cabernet Sauvignon is a pleasure for the senses with the aromas of lush black cherry, cassis and a hint of tobacco. Aged in American and French oak, its complex layers of spice are balanced by soft tannins making it the perfect wine to pair with roasted and grilled meats such as lamb, prime rib, or porterhouse steak.
ONEHOPE donates 50% of profits generated from the sale of every bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to benefit ACT Today! to help autistic children achieve their highest potential. The partnership between ONEHOPE and ACT Today! helps provide funding and support for families who cannot afford specialized care for their autistic children. From social skills groups and referrals to biomedical treatments, ACT Today! is making positive change and providing hope to individuals with autism and their families. 50% of profits from ONEHOPE California Cabernet Sauvignon sales are donated to charities who support the fight against Autism.

Pricing may vary depending on your location.  It is typically around $9-$12 in our area.  The wine is delicious and has made a wonderful gift for others on several occasions.  Bringing a bottle to a dinner party is a great way to spark conversation and awareness.  Finding new ways to lend support is always important to me. Therefore, I say have a glass to support needed resources! 



Monday, April 18, 2011

HBO Documentary 'Autism: The Musical'

This Emmy winning documentary directed by Tricia Regan, originally aired on HBO but is available on DVD.  Be forewarned, this movie is real and often not picture perfect.  Although the basis of the film is on a musical that the children develop and perform together, it has little focus on the specific performance and more to do with the families involved.  Grab your tissues, plug your ears for the foul language and strap in for an emotional roller coaster ride.  For Autism Awareness Month, this documentary is a way to enlighten those that don't know about the daily struggles families face or for families dealing with autism to know they aren't alone.

Elaine Hall, aka 'Coach E', developed 'The Miracle Project' as a way to join children with disabilities and arts, theater and music.  Elaine adopted her son from Russia when he was a toddler and soon after received the diagnosis of autism.  During this documentary we follow her son's story along with four other children and their parents.  These parents are candid in sharing raw emotions of how autism is influencing their life now and also their thoughts of the future for their children.  I found myself crying one moment and laughing the next.  It was an honor to be able to take a peek inside the daily struggles these families are experiencing.  "Prepare to be inspired" is the slogan for this movie and I think it is quite fitting. 

Coach E has also written a book about her journey with her son, 'Now I see the Moon', which is on my list to read!  She also gives good advice about what to do to help families with those on the spectrum; read some of her posts on her site:


Friday, April 15, 2011

Teaching Emotional Awareness

Recognizing and interpreting the emotions of others, as well as labeling and understanding their own emotions can be difficult for many individuals with ASD. Although we don't typically teach these skills to children because they naturally pick up the cues from their environment, we may need to specifically teach this to children on the spectrum. In this post I will mention a few resources that we've found helpful in teaching these skills to individuals of all different ages.

This is an adorable book to help young kids identify and label their emotions. Oftentimes I start by covering up the "answers" with a piece of white notebook paper to see if the child can identify the emotion just from the picture and then we reveal the answer and talk about the emotion. Some of the emotions in the book a little complicated for young kids, such as proud, but I think the illustrations are very clear and help teach the concepts. Although the first step is to simply identify the emotion, for some kids who have a beginning awareness of their own emotions, you can use this book to see if the child can provide examples of situations where they felt the various emotion. Oh, and another plus is that this book is a board book so is really sturdy-- we love board books!

I structured this task from pictures that I found on the website. This is a great task to use with beginning readers. Here the individual chooses which picture fits the emotion and there is a clear place to put the answer. There are several pictures available on the website--again many of which are quite complex, but you can easily pick out the ones you think your child/client is ready for. I wish that more of the photos were of children, but the pictures tend to be pretty clear in depicting the various emotions.


This is a task that Abby structured (mine wasn't nearly as pretty :) also from the Do2learn website. On the front page of a folder you can just put a pocket or envelope to put the emotion cards in and then when you open up the folder there are various written descriptions of situations that elicit different emotions. This is a great task for middle school age children, adolescents, or even adults. There are three different levels of complexities that you can print and an answer key is provided (there are several emotions that can fit in more than one place which may require the individual with whom you are doing the task to do some switching around if necessary). Again, you can use this activity to talk about situations that apply to the individual and even make up your own activity based on situations you know the person has encountered. Word of Caution: some of the photos in this task are questionable, well one in particular is of a man that looks pretty creepy, so if it weirds you out, then simply don't include that one! 

Have a great weekend everyone :)

- Molly

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"The Autism That I Was Not Aware Of" by Guest Blogger, Christy

It was one year ago this month that our son AJ had his very first evaluation.  He was 2 1/2 and not talking much, so we were ready to try some speech therapy.  We figured we'd get the free evaluation, let the state pick up the tab for speech, and be caught up and done by the time he was 3.  No one would ever even have to know.

So, the Early Intervention team came, saw, and evaluated.  After a 30 minute break, they called me back in the room to tell me the following:

  • You have pureed sweet potatoes on your face (ummmm... thanks?  I was feeding my baby in the next room, not eating them myself, I promise?)
  • AJ's development is "scattered."  In other words, the delayed speech isn't the only problem (Uh oh).
  • AJ is showing many of the red flags for autism.  (What?)

I didn't take this news very well.  I cried for a minute, then got really angry and more or less told them they couldn't be more wrong and their evaluation was rigged.

My irrational, now embarrassing response made perfect sense to me at the time.  I was confident that I knew the signs of autism (after all, this was during Autism Awareness Month), and I was equally confident that he wasn't showing a single one of them.  That afternoon, between phone calls with reassuring friends and family members who assured me that AJ was fine, I made mental lists of the reasons why he couldn't have autism:
  • he was very bright- he already knew his colors and letters by age two!
  • he loved to cuddle- children with autism don't do that, do they?
  • he never lined up toys or spaced out for long periods of time- in fact, he spent most of his days running and scattering toys around the house like a category five hurricane.
  • he could care less about trains.  Even Thomas. 
  • I had known a couple of kids with autism and AJ was nothing like them. 

There were more reasons, but you get the point: my criteria for an autism diagnosis was based on a very limited knowledge of symptoms from the What to Expect series and TV.

Even though I was sure he didn't have autism, a few weeks later I decided to check out a website that the evaluators had recommended.  It was a set of videos from that show very young children with autism.  I watched those videos over and over again, with tears streaming down my face.  That was the day when I realized that autism wasn't the simple set of cliche symptoms that I had always thought it was.  And, more importantly, that was the day when I realized that my little boy might very well have it. 

You see, the signs of autism can be really subtle.  Especially in young children.  I thought my son was OK because he pointed, but then I realized that he only pointed at things in books and not to communicate that he wanted something.  I thought that cuddling meant he was social, but it could also just be seeking sensory input.  I thought he made awesome eye contact each night after supper, but he more often than not was looking at the ceiling fan reflection in my glasses (true story).  I thought he was fine because he played with toys, but as it turns out just spinning a helicopter propeller doesn't count.  I thought he was focused when he wouldn't look up from a toy or book, but he also was showing a lack of joint attention. 

If you've never heard of these more subtle signs and are wondering if your child has autism, stop listening to me and find a more professional opinion.  A good first step is to contact your county's Early Intervention Office if your child is younger than age three.  They were very helpful to us, even when I wasn't so eager to accept their help.  If your child is over three, you should contact your local school system for services (although truthfully they have not been as helpful as the folks at EI). Of course if you're on this website, you already know to contact TEACCH for help too!

Once we found out for sure that AJ had autism, we found more resources.  The book More than Words is the best one we've read to date (to learn more click here). It's also nice to know a few local parents of children with autism so that you can find resources in your area.  Our speech therapist introduced us to a family she used to work with.  Their son has autism and is about five years older than our son, so it's helpful to hear from someone who has been there.  Although I didn't particularly care for the local Autism Society Support Group I visited, I've found great support online.  There are so many good blogs written by parents of children with autism; it's a very supportive and even fun community that I never knew existed.

Finding out about the subtle signs of autism was a huge and scary moment for me.  But if you're in that position right now, I can assure you that it only gets better from here.  Really, it does.  Knowing what you're up against is a good thing, because it's only then that you know where to seek out the help that your child needs and deserves.  Also, if you're like me, the awful things that you fear in your head are way worse than the reality.  I for one am very grateful that autism is nothing like I thought it was.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Social Skills & Autism/Aspergers

Once again, Jed Baker has created resources that are invaluable.  Children on the spectrum struggle with social situation and are visual learners.  Using this information, Jed Baker has created two wonderful books 'The Social Skills Picture Book' and 'The Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond'Both of these books have vivid pictures of real children, adolescents and adults in social situations. 

*TIP:  Parents, you can probably get by with just the book if you are using it with just your own child.  Therapists/Teachers, buy the CD in addition!  Both books have a CD that can be purchased with the books.  This CD allows you to print full color pages from your computer that are exactly like the pages of the book. 

'The Social Skills Picture Book'
This book is a great resource for children to learn a range of social skills.  Parents and professionals can read through the various sections of the book to discuss specific areas of need.  Introductions, appropriate greetings, empathy, play skills and emotional awareness are a few of the many topics.  This book features large pictures and short descriptions on each page to not overwhelm the individual with words.  Additionally, there are many examples highlighted of the 'right' and 'wrong' way to approach situations.  A variety of children are depicted in the pictures in many situations.  This book is a wonderful resource for any child with social difficulties whether on the spectrum or not!

'The Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond'
This book is similar in the format of the previous book.  Being that the first social picture book features younger children, this is a great book for those adolescents that social situations may differ.  The High School book, shows older adolescents/teens that other individuals this age may identify with easier.  Although it is described for High School students, many of the situations and pictures would be appropriate for Middle Schoolers as well.  This book features similar topics around friendships, conversations and other social skills but also targets areas more specific to teens.  Some of these focus areas are with appropriate topics of conversation, dating, interviewing for jobs, giving class presentations, working in groups and much more.

Learn more about Jed Baker and order books here.  These books are a must have for those working on social skills.  The pictures are of great quality and much easier to understand than line drawings or written/verbal descriptions.  Amazon lets you see some of the pages inside the book by using their 'click to look inside'.  Take a peek on Amazon:  The Social Skills Picture Book  and The Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Does My Child Have Autism?

This is a question many parents may be asking themselves, but it can be a difficult one to find answers to and for so many families, it's a difficult question to even ask out loud. Does My Child Have Autism? by Wendy Stone is a book that helps to answer this question and to provide parents with a direction of what to do and where to go if they have this suspicion or gut feeling that something may be different about the development of their child. Wendy Stone is a clinician, researcher, professor, and parent who provides invaluable insights and gentle guidance in asking the hard questions, seeking professional help, and taking the first steps in intervention. She is extremely sensitive to the vulnerability of the situation and writes her book accordingly. 

The book is divided into the following chapters:

What Exactly Are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
What Should I look For?
The Early Diagnostic Process
Early Intervention 
Working With Your Child at Home

She also includes the diagnostic criteria for ASD, as well as a modified checklist for the M-CHAT, a developmental screening tool for autism in toddlers. You may have heard of the M-CHAT or perhaps your pediatrician has used this tool at your child's check-ups. We're moving in the direction of this being standard protocol, however, from what I hear from parents, many professionals are not using it and may dismiss parents concerns when they inquire about autism. This is really upsetting to me and it means that parents need to be even more diligent in advocating for their children and finding professionals who will listen. The M-CHAT is actually available online (click HERE go to the site) and I encourage parents to use this tool as to ask their pediatricians about it.

Dr. Stone talks about common comments she hears parents say before they know whether or not their child is on the spectrum. Some of the ones she mentions are:

"It's hard to get his attention- he likes to do his own thing"
"Everything she does is on her own terms"
"He gets things by himself"
"We thought she couldn't hear"
"He is always jabbering, but doesn't use words to communicate with us"
"He plays with toys by lining them up"
"He is a creature of habit-likes to have everything in its place and order"
"He hasn't figured out toys yet, but enjoys exploring cabinets and drawers"

Maybe you can identify with some of these statements? What I love about this book is that the author is careful to to describe the range of behaviors that can be associated with autism spectrum disorder, but reminds readers that no two children on the spectrum are exactly alike and reminds us that we need to look not only at the frequency of behaviors, but also the quality of the interaction/communication. She addresses common myths about autism and helps to clarify what ASD actually is. I love this paragraph she writes on page 5 of the book:

" In truth, if you had the opportunity to view a room of young children with autism, you would see some children talking and others using pictures or sign language to communicate. Some children would be sitting with their peers, others sitting by themselves. Some would be working at a table, others running back and forth along a wall or climbing on furniture. Some might be laughing during a tickle game with their parents, others having a tantrum and throwing toys. Looking at this group, you would wonder, "Which of these children have autism?" The simple answer is that they all do."

Wendy Stone helps walk the readers through the diagnostic process so they know exactly what to expect, provides advice in how to tell family members about the diagnosis, and helps parents navigate through tough decisions, like picking a preschool, choosing an intervention, and working on skills at home. I think this is a wonderful resource for parents who are new to this process that can certainly be extremely overwhelming and anxiety provoking. 

I would love to hear from our readers-- thinking about your experiences early on in this process 

What did you find helpful?
What was NOT helpful?
What resources did you use?
What do you wish you knew
 or wish that someone would have told you?
How did you know what services to seek out?

Please, if you are interested, we would LOVE to hear from parents. Email us at if you would like to be a guest blogger and write about your experiences when you were going through the diagnostic process. Nothing is more powerful than parents hearing from other parents who have been there. Thank you SO much and HAPPY AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH! 

- Molly

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Resource for Beginning Learners: Where to start teaching those with autism

Happy World Autism Awareness Day! 
Although this is the day that the world shall hopefully be more aware, we hope that we can attain that awareness each and everyday.  Spread the word!

In looking at being more aware of autism, let's start at the first stages of learning.  Often it is difficult to know how to begin teaching skills.  Beginning learners are not always understanding the expectations of others, how to manipulate materials and when something is truly complete.  After years of working with students, we still find ourselves having having to make adjustments to activities.  It can be quite overwhelming for parents and professionals to know how to start working with an individual that doesn't yet know how to follow the directions of others or the sequence of an activity.  Disorganization, fine motor difficulties, short attention span, are a few of the roadblocks that we face. 

ShoeboxTasks® are a great resource for those working with these beginning level students.  Originally designed with actual shoe boxes, these self-contained tasks are perfect for individuals getting started.  These activities take the anxiety of knowing where to start in teaching students or your own child.  They are very sturdy and well made so they can stand the test of time.  Find out more on their website

Two of our favored tasks are:

Red Buttons Into Water

Drum Roll

These tasks are motivating activities for most of the individuals we see.  'Red Buttons into Water' is a visually fascinating/stimulating task for he/she to watch the button float to the bottom as they put each one in.  Many of the individuals we work with love water and this can be a very calming task. The 'Drum Roll' is lots of fun to watch as well as hear.  The ball spins around the oil drum with a fun whirring noise before dropping down into the hole.

In addition to offering a great resource for those starting to learn skills, the work experience for those on the spectrum is invaluable!  Individuals with autism have the chance to help in packaging and building the tasks as part of the Centering on Children, Inc.  This organization designs, manufactures and packages ShoeboxTasks® in Asheville, North Carolina.  Visit the website to find out more information and check out their videos part 1 and part 2 for great information about the tasks, work experience and how to begin teaching.