Autism-Related Articles, Books, Services

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Arts and Crafts: A "Native American" Loom

This winter, we focused on colonial America and the Wampanoag indians. I can't say all the readings and maps were a huge hit, but we did create a home made "native american" loom which Tom used to make a mini-blanket -- and THAT was a surprisingly successful idea. As you may know, kids with autism aren't known for their fine motor skills, and Tom's drawing and handwriting attest to that. But in this case, interest overcame potential frustrations!

We used a process described below (you'll find it on EdHelper) - and Tommy stuck with the project for several days until it was complete. Later, we visited a local arts center, and he was fascinated by a full-scale loom that "lives" there. To follow up, I've made a date to visit the weaver's studio!

In this picture, Tom is starting to create his loom with the help of speech therapist Kathleen Florance.

Cutting slits to make the loom


The final product: a blanket for "Kitten"
Partial Instructions From

2) Cut a 5" by 8" piece of cardboard for each student. Mark short lines a half inch apart
along the 5" wide section on the top and bottom. Draw a line one half inch in from
the top and bottom. Cut slits at the marks. (see photo) The loom can be made
slightly larger for older students, or if the student wishes to make a pouch. The
finished fabric will be about 1" shorter and 1" narrower than the size of the loom.

3) Thread the warp. Take a piece of yarn and put it into a slit at one corner, leaving a
3"-4" piece of yarn on the back of the cardboard, you can tape it into place if needed.
Bring the yarn down the front of the cardboard piece and into the slit at the bottom.
Then bring it back up in the slit next to it. Now bring the yarn back to the next slit on
the top edge of the loom, put it into the slit. Bring it back to the front using the slit
next to it, and so on. The warp yarn should be pulled snug as it is being threaded,
but not so snug that it bends the cardboard.

4) Cut some cardboard rectangles 2 inches by 1 inch wide to make shuttles for the
yarn. Wrap a 3 ft to 6 ft piece of yarn around the shuttle. Then begin weaving by
gently pulling up on every other thread and passing the yarn beneath it. Then head
back again, making sure to go under every warp thread that has a thread over it. At
the end of each row, tug on the yarn gently only, or the warp yarns will get pulled out
of place. Also after each row is complete, push the yarn up snug against the
previous rows.

5) When changing colors of yarn, simply weave the end of the yarn into the design, and
then start a new color.

6) When getting to the bottom inch of the weaving, the yarn can no longer be wound on
the shuttles, and will simply need to be woven with fingers. Continue to push the
yarn up snugly against the previous rows.

7) Remove the weaving from the cardboard. There will be loops at either end. A dowel
or stick can be threaded through the loops to make a hanging, or the threads can be
gently redistributed to fill in the loops. This is part of the reason why they need to be
pushed snugly against each other during the weaving.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Be Impressed. Be Very Impressed.

Playing Clarinet in "All Band" Performance at Falmouth High School

In the last few months, we have done amazing things.

  • Mapping and labeling Massachusetts and all the New England states
  • Creating a Massachusetts timeline from 1620 onward
  • Creating a map (with photos) of the old Cape Cod train line
  • Reading about (and answering questions about) colonial New England; comparing it to present day
  • Reading about (and answering questions about) native Americans, particularly the Wampanoag
  • Attending a presentation by a Wampanoag educator
  • Visiting an early lighthouse and centuries-old shipwreck in Wellfleet, MA
  • Doing an arts project related to colonial America (making and using a hand-made loom)
  • Performing in an "all bands" event in the local High School gym
  • Visiting the Fine Arts Mueum in Boston
  • Continuing and doing much better in math (word problems, simple multiplication)
  • attending weekly homeschool gym at the Y, and working on all kinds of ball-handling, rock climbing, swimming, etc. with "typical peers"
  • Continuing with candlepin bowling league -- Tom and Sara's team is top among four!
  • Volunteering monthly to feed and exercise the critters at the local nature center
  • Completing and writing about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the book)
  • Learning to use a graphic organizer to develop and write paragraphs
  • Becoming expert in conjugating the verb "to be," and using the right tense
  • Starting to learn about homynyms
  • Created a painted river and waterfall and made "trees" from twigs and "old man's beard" for train layout

And on and on it goes...

I'm beginning to understand while homeschoolers all sound so impressive: it just kinda happens, without your spending too much time planning or describing it.

shipwreck at Cape Cod National Seashore

The big question, for me, is how much of this is he actually understanding and retaining? And I have a sense that it's somewhere between "some" and "a bit." For example, he's definitely getting local geography and basic map reading. He's definitely got the very general gist of Mass history (there was the Mayflower and pilgrims and Wampanoag indians greeted the pilgrims. Life was diffferent then. There are still Wampanoags around now, and I met one). He understands that the king of England was in charge of the colonies, and the the revolution was about removing the king and replacing him with a president -- George Washington. Is that about as much as most fifth graders know? I wonder...

Both of us have pretty much had it with American history - at least for the time being. And we're staring in on what I think will be a more engaging unit on The Human Body. We'll start with a National Geog. video, and cover various different systems (skeletal, muscular, digestive, etc.). Found some good books and websites, and will supplement with some hands-on fun (I know some good stuff, and grabbed a Janice Van Cleave hands-on book from the library). Should be able to cover science and health content pretty nicely, along with some non-fiction book reporting, drawing, and maybe even a three-D art project.

Thanks, so very much, to the person who recommended the City Creek Press animated times tables. So far, they have made a huge difference in Tom's understanding -- even though he claims he doesn't want to watch or do the quizzes!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Roadblocks or Language Issues?

We're working on writing. I decided to download a software program called "Kidspiration," which uses graphical organizers to help kids put their thoughts together... found it was a lot of work to do something that's easier to do by hand LOL! But thought I'd try "webbing" as a way to put together a paragraph about a character in a book.

We started with Tom's imaginary friend, Lizard, and that went pretty well. So I moved on to Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I put Mr. Wonka's name in the middle of the web, and asked Tom to tell me three things about the character. Tom has watched the movie a thousand times. He's read the book and answered every readin comprehension question correctly. He told me a pile of things that Mr. Wonka DID, but couldn't come up with a single character trait. After much pushing and shoving, I got three traits -- but there was NO way he could come up with examples of the traits. It was simply asking too much.

I realized that Tom really didn't grasp the concept of a character trait. No one has ever asked him "what is so and so like." We ask "what does so and so DO," "when does he do it," and so on -- but never something as abstract as "what is he like?" Somehow, either he doesn't understand the idea -- or doesn't understand the language I'm using to describe what I'm asking for. I don't exactly know which...

I've decided to step back a bit, and use the organizers to help him write about animals -- something that will be much easier for him. We've also been making a "colonial" loom from cardboard, and he had no trouble coming up with a sequence of steps (though his choice of words, handwriting and grammar are still very young).

Had a similar concept/language problem today with skip counting. Thought I'd use SchoolHouse Rock multiplication videos to help him memorize sequences -- he got teary-eyed! Why? he was very upset that I'd mixed up TV (which is fun) with learning (which is something other than fun?!). Now, he loves educational videos -- but apparently up until now he didn't realize that they had anything to do with the kind of learning you do in school (or even in homeschool!). Wow. I just assumed he knew...

Then we went on to multiplication worksheets. Now, Tom has been able to add for many years, and adding 3 to 42 really is a no-brainer for him. Yet he cannot grasp the idea that skip counting by threes means the same thing as adding three and then three again. Yes, we've done 3+3+3+3, etc. Yes, we've made groups of three. We've made triangles. We've done hands-on 3's counting. We've rearranged cards with multiples of 3, and he's put them in the right order. We've done mazes where you follow the trail of 3's. But when he gets stuck, and I say "just add 3," he looks at me like I'm nuts and has no idea what to do.

Are we hitting real conceptual roadblocks here? Or is this some kind of language issue? Somehow, he is not connecting ideas that he KNOWS with the words to describe those ideas. I'm not sure what the problem is... so am not at all sure how to solve it...