Issue No. 40, October 2012

“. . . the way it makes my heart feel and how it motivates me
is why I choose it—I choose to be optimistic.”

~ Bryce Notbohm

It’s a rare author who will give away the ending of her new book. But I do so here with great joy, because the perfect (I don’t use the word lightly) final words came about as one of those spontaneous moments between parent and child that you just know will remain vivid in your memory forever, demanding to be shared as widely as you possibly can. In the final paragraphs of the just-released second edition of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, Bryce reflects on his high school years, telling me how he spent that time trying to define himself:

“I knew I wasn't 'autistic' and I knew I wasn't 'normal,' whatever that is,
so I chose something else. I chose to be optimistic.”

This simple statement moved me so profoundly that Bryce decided to elaborate upon it as the topic for the final exam in his writing course, a handwritten in-class essay. He gave his permission for me to share it with you.

I Choose to be Optimistic
By Bryce Notbohm

During the years I was growing up, I developed the sense that if I’m doing a challenging task, I should always try to take things the simple way. The simple way involves patience; it means being hardworking but avoiding unnecessary complications. This gives me the strength to believe that things will turn out all right for me once the task is completed. If I took what I consider to be the hard way, pushing myself to try to say, do and be things that I’m not—such as be an extroverted person, when I’m more introverted—it would be much more stressful. Maybe things wouldn’t have turned out to be as positive as I hoped; maybe I wouldn’t have been as successful as I’ve been able to be, had I worried too much about the worst that could happen. Having a little faith in yourself and others is important. No matter what faith might look like to you, what matters is that you’re able to see how it makes you look inside yourself—what makes you, you.

My parents always gave me confidence in myself. I chose to stick with it even when, as I grew older, I became aware that other families were different and I sometimes felt I didn’t fit in with others. I stuck with it anyway because it’s how I was raised and I never would want to give up the things that I saw in life first. The growing-up time spent with my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and my cousins convinced me to become someone who could see the world not just as it is, but as it should be. I call it “noble optimism,” and it is what I am destined to be for as long as I live.

In middle school, my maturity was developing but the people I was surrounded by seemed to me like they lived in a more complex environment. I didn’t feel I belonged there. I was concerned that my generation was becoming a rude one. But I still didn’t let my faith in myself fly away.

Twenty years into the process of growing into an independent adult, I feel like I’ve arrived at a much harder step. My emotions have become more intense than they were back when I was little, but I have never given up my beliefs. The intensity of my emotions doesn’t make me feel aggressive, but allows me to show assertive confidence in standing up for myself better than I did long ago. In high school, I spent most of my time getting to know classmates who were not only people with different skills, but whose struggle in life was similar to mine. We, who all had learning differences, learned that whatever we were taught in the wonderful private school we attended (Thomas Edison High School in Portland, Oregon) would help us succeed and get through life a lot better. The power I was given was strength that I never would have experienced at a public school. It’s a pity this kind of personalized education and the mental discipline it teaches isn’t available at all schools, around the world, whether or not a student has a learning difference.

Now in my college years, I feel like I can make my own decisions about how I can best handle my life. Stress is an enemy that’s still on the run; like everyone else, I have stress and it affects me, but now I feel I can defeat it next time it returns. In envisioning my life going forward, the choice that I’ve clarified is something that not only my folks taught me but I’ve learned for myself as I’ve gotten older. Keeping it in mind always is a technique that might falter sometimes in a predicament, but the way it makes my heart feel and how it motivates me is why I choose it. This is what I’ve had all along. I choose to be optimistic.

© 2012 Ellen Notbohm and Bryce Notbohm

Momentous in Montana

With Patricia Wright, National Director of Easter Seals Autism Services, at the ChildWise Institute’s Autism and Asperger’s conference in Helena MT.

Now that was a heck of a book launch party!

ChildWise Institute’s autism conference September 28 and 29 brought me to Helena as opening keynote speaker to a sell-out crowd of educators, child welfare professionals, government service providers, parents and grandparents. The new edition of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew made its pre-release debut and sold out all available copies by noon of the first day. Record numbers of attendees filled the room for my round table discussions, with some stalwarts staying for all three sessions. The issues they raised and the insights they shared will fill this newsletter for months to come. 

Kudos to ChildWise for identifying a need in the community and moving to fill it.  Executive Director Todd Garrison wrote me that “because of the response we received, ChildWise will be pursuing additional opportunities to be  a catalyst of understanding, learning and change for autism spectrum children, their families, and those that guide them.” Kids win! Yesss!  Read my ChildWise guest blog “Reaching for the Stars, Feet on the Ground.”

And I extend a special welcome to the 200+ new subscribers who are joining us here for the first time.  Visit my website for back issues and columns on subjects you raised, and more:

New, expanded edition of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew available now!

A bestseller gets even better, delving into expanded thought and deeper discussion of communication issues, social processing skills, and the critical roles adult perspectives play in guiding the child with autism to a meaningful, self-sufficient, productive life. A bonus section includes ten more essential, thought-provoking "things" to share with young people on the spectrum as they cross the threshold of adulthood, and an appendix of more than seventy questions suitable for group discussion or self-reflection. This new edition sounds an even more resonant call to action, carrying the reader farther into understanding the needs and the potential of every child with autism.

Order now at Amazon

Read excerpt in this month’s Autism Asperger’s Digest

Mom’s Choice Gold Award for 1001 Great Ideas

My co-author Veronica Zysk and I are honored to be named 2012 Mom’s Choice Gold Award winners. The Mom’s Choice Awards® are globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services in more than 22 countries. The Mom’s Choice Award joins our earlier Teacher’s Choice Award, and our Silver Medal in the Independent Book Publishers Awards. This is a great time to add 1001 Great Ideas to your personal or school library.

Amazon currently offers the book at the terrific price of $15.02, with free two-day shipping for college students.

Excerpts and detailed Table of Contents on my website.

I am on Autism Today TV

See my two-part interview “School Success” on Autism Today TV.

You have a story. I’ll help you tell it.

Are you an aspiring writer? You are if you’ve ever hankered to inform, inspire, persuade or entertain by putting words on a page. Whether you’re considering taking a run traditional or self-publishing, I’m now offering affordable developmental editing and one-on-one writing coaching to all.

“Working with Ellen has provided me with the ability to see both creative and organizational aspects of my writing that I could not clearly observe in myself, thus allowing me to understand my project on a much deeper personal level than I could have imagined.”

- Louise Patrick MA, CCC/SLP/L, Hawaii Department of Education ASD Specialist

If your book, essay or article is waiting in the wings, email me to discuss how we can move it onstage.

Keep in touch with me

I’m booking speaking engagements, readings and book signings for 2013. Contact me at

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Visit me at for book excerpts, articles, news blog, foreign translations, and newsletter archive.

Follow me on Twitter at @EllenNotbohm

Book excerpts on website

Cick here for book excerpts

New! Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, updated and expanded edition
In its entirety, Chapter 8: Help Me with Social Interactions

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew
In its entirety, Chapter 3: I Think Differently

1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s, 2nd edition
"What We Miss in Misbehavior” and "Game Plan for Meltdowns"

The Autism Trail Guide: Postcards from the Road Less Traveled
“The Power of a Cookie”

Newsletter archive: if you are new to our newsletter community, please visit the newsletter archive on my website and browse some popular past features at my newsletter archive

If you’ve read my books and feel inclined to share your thoughts with others, please consider posting a review on my book pages at It’s easy to do and you don’t have to post your real name.

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©2012 Ellen Notbohm | Third Variation Strategies