Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Candid Review of AO Year 1 Books...So Far (Part 1)

Last month I almost threw out one of the books we use for our AO Year 1 schedule. Almost. I even said, "That's it! We're not doing this one anymore." Any of you who've used AO Year probably know which one it was.

Say it with me: Parables of Nature. Yep, week 24 of our schedule and I'm ready to hurl the thing across the room. Why haven't I given it up altogether you ask? Replace it with Among the ______ People? I can be a little stubborn at times. (cough, cough!) That's part of it. The other part is realizing that all the stress is coming from HELLO!, ME!!!

I've read on the AO Yahoo boards that this book is a difficult one for many kids to get used to. For a child with autism, it is extremely hard. A huge part of it is the language. Pooh has language delays and CAPD (central auditory processing disorder). He doesn't always know what is going on or he'll get things backwards (who is talking to who(m)?). At other times, he can give me a very good rough narration.

One chapter we've read is called Training and Restraining. It's basically about the wisdom behind being guided by principles and rules. It is illustrated through a story of flowers in a garden who are tied up and guided to grow certain was being tricked by the Wind. The Wind convinces them that they don't need these restraints, that they can be 'free'. Of course, the Wind then blows hard enough to completely destroy many plants, making a complete mess of the garden.

I like this book. When I'm not trying to help Pooh narrate from it. LOL I like how the author uses nature stories to teach us life lessons. It reminds me of some of Jesus parables from the bible. It will make you think. Which is the whole point really.

I've stuck with this book for several reasons. There is the usual 'finish what I start' mentality I've got going. I like the book. Pooh has been able to narrate small portions of it without help, so I know the potential is there. It is challenging for him. (a good thing--I'll explain why soon.) It's stretching his thinking and narration skills.

What I've discovered is that:

1. I need to take this book in small sections on a more regular basis. I can't do one story in 1-2 days like many. It's too much. The stories are too long. The both of us get stressed about it. What I'm doing now is taking 2-4 pages at a time (with several stops for narrations) and just doing it every day until the chapter is done.

2. I need to remember to let Pooh read this to me more. He seems to pay better attention on this book when he reads it aloud himself. Because the book is harder for him, it's too easy for Pooh to allow his mind to wander when trying to 'listen'. Reading himself helps keep his focus. Today I saw a big difference when I did that. He still got a little confused over some details, but he was able to give a narration instead of saying "I forgot to listen. I'm sorry!"

3. I have to do some narrating myself with this book. It helps Pooh to get the story a bit better.

4. Keep him on track. Today's story had a paragraph that mentioned a volcano. That was all it took for him to start going off about the volcanoes in Hawaii. A gentle "Ok, but we need to narrate what's happening in this story right now." is all it took for him to refocus.

5. Accept that what he does get out of the story is 'enough'. He may or may not get all the deeper meanings behind these stories. He may sorta get it. One thing about Pooh is that one little tidbit will sometimes connect with another tidbit a lot later on and then he gathers enough to come to some excellent conclusions. I have to learn to wait for that. (Incidentally, today we finished the story about Waiting. How appropriate!!! ;D)

6. Explain some of the unfamiliar words. Today as he was reading, Pooh asked me what a crone was. "An old lady" I said. Let us hope that that word stays in our literary world. I can just hear it now "Mommy, is grandma a crone?" Within earshot of said Grandma, of course. LOL

I'm glad that I have so far persevered with this book. Do I think that Tigger will get much more out of it when it's his turn? Yes. However, I like that Pooh is getting his 'tidbit' and maybe when he hears it again for Tigger, he'll pick up some more 'tidbits' and it'll help connect some missing pieces for him. Today ended well. He told me that "mole had good advice" and "the crickets had to wait just like we have to wait". Those were two of his own observations just from what he understood. Even though he didn't capture many other points, he captured two important things and that was wonderful. (Whew! Somebody have a towel?? I can wipe the beads of sweat, I mean glow, off my forehead. ;P)

Access to this book online is here. You can also find it on Amazon.

I started this with our hardest book first. I have seen a lot of progress and wonderful things since beginning this journey with a CM education. I'll share how the other books are going soon.

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