Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 (FYI- I always choose bagpipes and the Scottish Highlands to showcase Auld Lang Syne, since it was written by the eminent Scottish poet Robert Burns. It also doesn't hurt that this year I have become obsessed with the Outlander TV series and these pictures of the Scottish Highlands are so perfect.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Freedom From Want....America Today

Yes this is a TYLENOL commercial, but watch it anyway, especially the longer versions for each family. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas

Positively Autism News letter December 2014; Writing

December 2014 Topic: Teaching Writing (Creative Writing, Reports, Assignments, and More)


Looking for Future Newsletter Topics
What topic would you like to see featured in our upcoming newsletters? Each month, we choose a topic and look for helpful articles and free resources to share about the topic. We'd like to know what you're interested in hearing about next year. If you've got an idea, please send an e-mail to Thanks!


December 2014 Newsletter: Teaching Writing (Creative Writing, Reports, Assignments, and More)
Last month, our newsletter featured articles and resources to help students with autism practice their handwriting. In a "spinoff" of that issue, this month, we will share information and resources on teaching the writing process to students with autism. We'll share resources to help work on writing assignments, such as writing sentences, stories, reports, and more.

Classroom Writing Center for Students with Autism -

Please Don’t Make Me Write! -

Use Texting To Increase Writing Skills -

Visual Support Checklist for Drawing a Picture to Accompany a Story -

Write about Winter: Visual Writing Activities and Prompts -

Cute Writing Activities for Students with Autism on Pinterest -


A Land We Can Share: Teaching Literacy to Students with Autism -

I Hate to Write: Tips for Helping Students with Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders Increase Achievement, Meet Academic Standards, and Become Happy, Successful Writers -

Christmas Freebies (Social Stories, Activities, and More)

"Visiting Family at Christmas" Social Story

"Going to Visit Santa" Social Story

"Getting Presents at Christmas" Social Story

"What to Expect at Christmas" Social Story

Christmas Song Visual Supports (Pictures and Lyrics)

All of these Christmas freebies can be found here:

Free Downloads

Since Facebook isn't showing our Daily Autism Freebie posts to many of our followers (because they want Facebook pages to pay for sponsored posts), I'm listing some of our most popular freebies from the month here. You can go directly to each day to get the freebies without Facebook!

Adapted Holiday Symbols Mini Book -

"Five Little Christmas Trees" Interactive Adapted Book -

Shopping for Holiday Decorations Money Skills Activity -

Santa's Syllable Sort -

"Say it to a Snowman" Language Activity -

Pre-Primer Sight Words Christmas Games -


December 2014 Positive Autism Media Stories -

You can find a list of the articles and resources in this newsletter issue here:

Remember to follow us on Facebook or Twitter for new free stuff posted each day!

I hope you have a peaceful Christmas and holiday season,

Nicole Caldwell, M.Ed.
Founder, Positively Autism

Please note that all information contained in this and any of our newsletters is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as professional advice on any subject matter. If you need handwriting help for your children or students, please contact appropriate professionals, such as an occupational therapist.

The World's Tallest Lego Menorah

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah for 2014. Chag Sameach. Happy Holiday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yes Virginia, There are Jewish Students at Hogwarts

Just in time for Hanukkah, J.K. Rowling confirms that indeed there are Jewish students at Hogwarts.


and then this follow up tweet

Mr. GS will be happy to hear about this one. He admitted to me, when he was an adolescent, that while he had no desire to go away to university, if there was such a thing as a Hogwarts he would happily go there.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

Tuesday night begins the holiday of Hanukkah. It is the story of Judah Maccabee and his brothers who led the first known war for religious freedom.

It's amazing how some things never change...what pissed off the Maccabees 2200 years ago is that some idiot in power decided to tell the Jews that their holy sites (here, here, here, here, here) and their capital Jerusalem didn't belong to them. Go figure....

By the way, for those that don't know, the miracle of Hanukkah is that when the Maccabees went to rededicate the Holy Temple there was only enough oil to burn in the Eternal Light (the symbol of God's continuity) for one day. However the Light burned for eight days until more oil could be brought to the Temple. So in commemoration of the miracle of the oil, Jewish people worldwide eat potato pancakes (latkes) or jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot); foods fried in oil. 

Hanukkah, Autism, and Self-determination

D is for Hanukkah, aka Dedication

Hanukkah Sameach...Happy for some sufganiyot....RECIPE here

We eat not only latkes but jelly donuts (sufganiyot) to celebrate the holiday. Anything fried in oil.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Video Games Can Actually Be Good for You


My gamer son, CM2, will be very pleased that finally someone in the medical world sees the positive aspects of video game play. Of course, CM2 would also tell you that violent video games don't make you violent and healthy individuals understand the difference between the alternate reality of video games and living in the real world. Personally I agree with him. There will always be those with mental illnesses that are drawn into delusion. They existed before video gaming and will be here when the next level of technology is created as well. Ultimately we have to go back to the real issue of why we ignore mental health issues until it's too late. Scapegoating video games and gamers as the world's modern versions of the Trojan Horse helps noone, especially those in dire need of medical support. (Yes,  I chose this analogy on purpose.  See: Trojan Horse in  computing)

Below you will find links to interesting papers written on the subject of video gaming's effect on individuals. I look at these studies always with an inquisitive eye. With too many studies refuting each other, researchers always looking for new dybbuk, and at times coming to their field with their own prejudices, I read the results and then end up with many questions of my own.  Considering that psychology is not in and of itself a hard science, and as we have seen with the issues surrounding the methodology behind the DSM V redefinition of autism, we always need to look behind the veil of psychiatry for answers to many of our concerns.

We, as parents, need to remind ourselves that we are the best judges of what is appropriate for our children and how we will handle any issues that develop. Needlesstosay, I do not think its fine to buy rated M games for tweens or children. But then I wouldn't take my boys at that age to an R rated movie either. In the end, whether its about video game play or how to support our autistic children or what is even best for ourselves and our families we simply need to use our own common sense.


Brian Primack

At TEDMED 2014, Brian Primack, Clinician, Professor, and Researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, sheds light on how principles learned from video game design can be used to create more effective health behavior change.
“I like media literacy because it favors empowerment over protectionism.” - Brian Primack


Having trained in the wonderfully disparate fields of English literature, mathematics, education, psychology, and medicine, Brian Primack combines his various forms of expertise by researching both positive and negative effects of media and technology on health. He has also pioneered the use of media literacy education in improving adolescent health behaviors and conducted extensive research on waterpipe (“hookah”) tobacco smoking. Brian is currently Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Research on Health and Society, Director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, and Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh.


Games and Health
Q&A with Brian on the TEDMED blog

Role of video games in improving health related outcomes: a systematic review.
Primack BA, et al. Am J Prev Med (2012), 6, 630–8.

Association between media use in adolescence and depression in young adulthood: a longitudinal study.
Primack BA, et al. Arch Gen Psych (2009), 2, 181–8.

Video games: Play or playlike activity?
Primack BA. Am J Prev Med (2009), 37(4), 379-80.


A longitudinal study of risk-glorifying video games and behavioral deviance.
Hull JG, Brunelle TJ, Prescott AT, Sargent JD.J Pers Soc Psychol. 2014 Aug;107(2):300-25.

The effects of video games on laparoscopic simulator skills.
Jalink MB, Goris J, Heineman E, Pierie JP, ten Cate Hoedemaker HO. Am J Surg. 2014 Jul;208(1):151-6.

Using commercial video games for upper limb stroke rehabilitation: is this the way of the future?
Pietrzak E, Cotea C, Pullman S. Top Stroke Rehabil. 2014 Mar-Apr;21(2):152-62.

Brain training with non-action video games enhances aspects of cognition in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.
Ballesteros S, Prieto A, Mayas J, Toril P, Pita C, Ponce de Leon L, Reales JM, Waterworth J. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014;6:277.

The effect of online violent video games on levels of aggression.
Hollingdale J, Greitemeyer T. PLoS One. 2014;9(11):e111790.

Active video games and health indicators in children and youth: a systematic review.
LeBlanc AG, Chaput JP, McFarlane A, Colley RC, Thivel D, Biddle SJ, Maddison R, Leatherdale ST, Tremblay MS. PLoS One. 2013 Jun 14;8(6):e65351.

Video games for diabetes self-management: examples and design strategies.
Lieberman DA. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2012 Jul 1;6(4):802-6.


By the way, it's also Mr.GS who likes to play World of Warcraft. My Gamer considers it too commercialized and passe. Interestingly, it's also Mr. GS who is studying to be a video game designer, not his gamer brother. So there is that little out-of-the-box aside in the rather interesting world in which I inhabit.

Also read: Video Games: Purpose and Yes, Importance

Holidays, Permission Granted to Celebrate as You Please

My yearly repost reminder from 2011.

Last year I wrote a post and called myself a Grinch. (Read the post. Its a goodie-promise) We are raised that we are supposed to revel in this time of year. We are taught that our entire society lives or dies based upon a few short hours on certain given days.  That somehow if we do not participate in these celebrations, as prescribed by some holiday-deity (I'm talking Hallmark or Norman Rockwell here, not God Almighty), then we have forfeited our right to be happy at this time of year. Well, as the US commanding general at the Battle of the Bulge, once said to the Nazis when asked to surrender, I say "nuts" to anyone who thinks that we cannot stand up and be happy.

Honestly,  I do love this time of year (Bit of a change for me from last year I know. Maybe my temperament is better- fewer menopause symptoms- or this post is up earlier than last year's Grinch post.) but I also hate this time of year (OK remembering what is to come). Oh I love the sights, the sounds and the smells. The boys love these things, not so much. When they were little it was the sensory overload that got to them. Too much of everything crammed into just a few short weeks that spills over into a hullabaloo of relatives, and an unknown and uncomfortable social reality. On Thanksgiving they used to hide in my sister-in-law's basement away from the crush of people and watch TV or play their video games. They sat quiet by themselves while everyone else "holidayed."  We, of course, would check on them periodically and on most occasions their younger cousins would sit with them and watch their DVDs as well. But it was not enjoyable for them. Their holiday experience was sorely lacking.

I know the theory behind the "get-togethers" for them, has to do with getting to know your relatives and understanding that there are people in the world who are attached to you in some way. But that is not what the boys learned. What they learned is that whenever they see a relative they are uncomfortable, feel overwhelmed and quite frankly would rather be somewhere else. There is no connection to these people they see once a year. There is no attachment. They don't even remember people's names.

Honestly I have a passel of relatives who I never see or hear from. Genetic "family" connection in my book is over rated. What you need to do is develop a "family" that will be there for you when you need them. Biology doesn't mean a darn thing at times. You are lucky when the two  "families" connect but in my experience they very rarely do. At least that is what happened in my world. Sadly you don't need to be a special needs family to be distant from those that are supposed to have your back. It's hard and it  hurts, when you come to realize just how alone you may truly be in this world. But you are better off creating your own support network "family" then accepting an inadequate one. Create the world you want to live in, I always say. You don't have to accept the one you are given if it is YOU always giving and not receiving. You don't have to accept the "family" you were born into if it makes you unhappy, unfulfilled, or feeling alone.

Looking back, which we tend to do when our children get older, I probably should not have made them go to SIL's. It was uncomfortable for them and for some reason we just thought that they would adjust. How wrong we were. They were not happy there among the throngs. We were nervous about how they would handle the get-togethers.We were  always on pins and needles waiting for a meltdown or and inappropriate interaction. I realize that no matter what anyone understood, and we come from an understanding extended family, they didn't get it. It truly wasn't their fault. I also know that if something did happen the extended family would be supportive. That was not the issue. It was the fact that quite frankly for us (parents and especially children), there was no joy, just alot of tension.
What I think we needed to do, quite frankly, is to give ourselves permission not to go to the SIL's.
Well that finally happened last year. Guess what? We had a nice day. I made a holiday meal. I set a holiday table. We enjoyed the quiet and the comfort of our own home with no crush of sensory stimuli. We watched what we wanted on television. The boys and hubby did their work and all went according to plan. It was nice. It was quiet. It was peaceful. I plan to do it again this year.

I modeled our Thanksgiving after how we celebrate the Jewish holidays. We tend to celebrate the Jewish holidays on our own. Family does not fly in for the celebrations. They do not make an effort to get together. So we have our own little rituals and our own little ways of doing things. This past Jewish New Year, CM1 actually asked if I had gotten certain celebratory foods. It's actually a fancy crudite platter that I buy from a local caterer every major holiday. It means something to him. It means holiday to him. It means a happy fun time, where he is not overwhelmed by noise, smell or sights. It means comfort and joy. It means calm. So I will buy that platter this year on Thanksgiving once again. I will make a small turkey breast, buy stuffing and a massive chocolate cake (we don't like pie).

I know catering sounds rather extravagant. (I admit it, it is) But my stuffing last year was a very sad affair. Heck, not even the dogs ate it. I have no idea what happened there and after three attempts I just gave up. You really don't even want to try my baking. It's truly noxious. I am the only one who ruins those pre-baked cookies from the supermarket. Honestly, it is not my forte. Listen one of the good side effects of getting older is that you can readily accept what you are good at and what you are not. I happily admit I can't bake, iron and I hate gardening or doing any outdoor work. Little House on the Prairie I am not. But cleaning a toilet doesn't bother me (Just give me cleaning gloves, Clorox clean-up and toilet bowl cleaner and I am ready and raring to go)...go figure.

So anyway...As I said one of the things you learn as you age is that you need to do what is best for you and those in your immediate family, i.e. your children. If people truly love and care about you they will understand. If they don't understand, well, then they are not really family, no matter what the genetics say.

Create your own holiday memories and traditions. Even if its only the fact that you buy a silly crudite platter. These are the things that YOUR child will learn to appreciate, understand and associate with love, family and happiness. It's OK. Really Its OK.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Yes Means Yes, No Means No: How to raise a son in our confusing culture

That Rolling Stone article fiasco about the alleged gang rape at UVA reminded me of an issue I hadn't touched on for some time. Teaching our aspergean sons about dating, sex and appropriate relationships.

By the way I am not one who finds the feminists obsession with "rape culture" here in the US over dramatized. Yes, women have it better here at this time then ever before, but sexism in our culture does exist, even though we do not hang to death rape victims as adulterers as they do in Iran. (Read HERE) Truth is everything isn't as cut and dried as some would have you believe. The overwhelming majority of males are not rapists waiting to happen. And yes some females consent to sex and then have second thoughts and cry rape. On college campuses women are told that if they had imbibed alcohol (even one glass of wine) then they couldn't consent to sex (legally not true). Hence even if a youngwoman consented at the time, it was rape if she had drunk any alcohol. What in fact are youngmen supposed to do with that? (Mothers Must Speak Up For Their Sons on Campus) (College Rape Overcorrection)

How do we explain the rules to our aspergean sons? And yes, I think that one of the biggest fears that every parent of a son has today is that some girl will falsely accuse your son of rape. (The FBI says  2% of rape claims are false, the same for other felonies.) That one never really goes away. Now whether there are more rapes on college campuses than in society I am not certain. Though, I do tire of the professional grievance mongers, who refuse to deal with the real issues that the everyday woman faces, but promote inaccurate statistics. They do us all a disservice. HERE.

Meanwhile, teaching about sexual relationships is something that has kept me up at night. How do we teach our sons, who have trouble reading social signals, when it is appropriate and not appropriate to touch a female?  Honestly, many have made fun of the rules and regulations proposed by California about sexual relationships on campus. But in truth these rules may actually be helpful for our sons. Yes means Yes law. (The violation of due process in the law are problematic, but the idea of continual affirmative consent during sex really isn't a bad idea.)

Temple Grandin has said, that because she finds sexual issues confusing she has elected to remain celibate. That is not something I would like for the boys. A healthy sexual relationship is part of a healthy and full life. Of course you can have a great life without it. But I think it's something that shouldn't be feared as far as our children are concerned. Rather a way needs to be found to explain the elements of a sexual relationship in a rational manner. If that can actually be done. Yes the emotional avenues are difficult, but that like everything is something that too can be learned and processed. Nothing I think is really beyond our children's reach unless they want it that way themselves.

Listen we taught the boys the meaning of the word "no" at an early age. When they reached high school they were also taught what is and is not a sexual assault. (Honestly considering sex education starts in 5th grade schools should make that part of the curriculum.)  We taught them that in fact kissing someone without their consent is not OK. But what do you do when you are faced with a television commercial that celebrated "a bullied boy" going into the prom and kissing the prom queen without her permission while she was dancing with her date? Feminists cried "rapey" and critics said "man haters." Hubby and I said, "that the commercial was not cool, no way."

What do you do when music refers to women as whores, bitches and denigrates females only seeing them as their ladyparts? What ever happened to singing about "love" not "fucking?" What ever happened to culture being uplifting, not bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator? What ever happened to honoring others and respecting their humanity? It is not only the purview of feminists to think of women as equal human beings to be respected. It is not only the purview of feminists to think of women as equal human beings to be honored. (By the way, Beyonce spreading her legs while she sang at an awards show is not feminism, and neither is it feminism when wearing a niqab when singing about Ferguson.)

Treat women as you would like them to treat you. That is it in a nutshell.

Now, luckily the boys despise modern music. They really don't like the "save-me-teen-female-vampire- angst" either. They don't get beauty pageants and quite frankly don't understand what is going on with their peers.  I think it must be confusing on some level, when they are inundated with this anti-women rapey culture, but then told on the other hand that they should not think less of women or hold women down. I know it confuses the heck out of me.

For what it's worth, both boys consider themselves  feminists and do not understand society's obsession with such anti-women, anti-equality cultural realities.

So what does it mean for the future and how they will interact with girls. They know girls in school. They know girls when they worked. Does it make it harder for them to interact with girls on any kind of a romantic level, all these rules and regulations? Honestly, yes it does. (CM2, along with every undergraduate at his college, had to do an online program about sexual assault and sexual harassment this year.) Will it keep them safe? I don't know. Do the rules intimidate them? In some ways yes it does. But better to be intimidated by the rules then fall victim to them.

Note: no I do not talk about aspergean girls and the issues they face when dealing with dating and sex. But the rules of self-respect, self-esteem, equality, and honor all come into play, as well as the general idea of awareness and self-protection.

Some books to start with on the issue:

Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron (generalized but a good place to start)
Preparing for Life, Dr. Jed Baker (small unit on dating and sexual relationships)
The Guide to Dating for Teenagers with Asperger Syndrome, Jeannie Uhlenkamp

Read: Turning Boys into Men, Fighting Society's Emasculation

Monday, December 1, 2014

What do you do when celebrities make fun of mental health issues?

Just so my readers don't think I only have words for liberals when they pick on people with mental health, or developmental disabilities. (Autism-Meme as Political Insult, Again) Here is an embedded tweet chat that I had with the conservative author Dana Loesch. Needlesstosay she was not amendable to my asking her not to make fun of mental health issues.

Background: last week a woman with an emotional support pig was removed from an airplane since the animal was not appropriately behaved and started to defecate on the plane. I have no issue with removing the pig. Safety and hygiene are what is paramount on a plane. What I object to is that to some people the idea of an emotional support pig is something to joke about.

We in the special needs community know that emotional support animals are essential to the well being of not only our autistic children, but to any number of persons dealing with mental health issues and especially veterans suffering from PTSD. Emotional support animals can be any animal that the doctor and the patient decide it to be. It's not always only a dog.



No, I never heard from her on this subject again (she has made sure I can't follow her anymore) and in fact Twitchy seems to think her tweet won the internet. I had already written a scathing comment to Twitchy's  first laugh about the emotional support pig. Compassionate conservatives by tuchas.