Issue No. 24, November 2009

Coming spring 2010 – updated and expanded
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s
By Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk

We’re excited about the second edition of our award-winning bestseller! Not only is it packed with hundreds of new ideas, but we’ve delved deeper into some of the critical issues we face as parents and teachers of children with autism. You’ll find longer discussions on developing social awareness and social thinking, how to encourage speech and facilitate conversation, teaching independence at every age, what we miss in “misbehavior” and how to stop enabling it,  and much more.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 3, Behavior

This argument is over. Dealing with an argumentative child is surely one of your greatest challenges. While we would never suggest tuning out or ending a conversation in which your child is attempting to communicate a legitimate need, there will come times when you need to put an end to an argument, demands or resistance. Developing an arsenal of one-liners can be useful. One-liners should always be short as possible and delivered respectfully and without sarcasm, name-calling or anger (as you would want from him). Some suggestions we gathered from parents:

  • Thank you for telling me how you feel.
  • I’m sorry you feel that way.
  • I won’t change my mind.
  • This discussion is over.
  • I’m changing the subject now. (Then do, cheerfully.)

Humor can often interrupt anger and break tension. Sense of humor is a very individual thing (what’s hilarious to one child may feel humiliating to another) so finding the humorous one-liners that work with your child may take some experimentation. But it’s worth a try. Or, put a non-verbal end to the discussion with a small dinner gong, whistle, kazoo or desk bell. 

Take a different approach: if your child is adept at arguing from a factual, logical perspective, use emotion-based responses that connect his actions to your feelings and reactions to stop his arguing. “I asked you to pick up your room and you argued with me instead of doing it. That argument took time and now it’s bedtime.” Or simply, “Arguing is exhausting for me. When you argue the answer will always be ‘no.’”

I hear ya – and this argument is over. Here’s a strategy from the baseball field that transfers beautifully to home. Ellen’s son Connor is an umpire, a venue in which coaches often elevate argumentativeness to a science. Connor circumvents lengthy disputes by establishing a 20-second rule at the pre-game meeting. Connor explains:

“If you have a legitimate concern, I will listen for as long as it takes to resolve it. But if you merely disagree with my decision and want to vent, you get 20 seconds. After 20 seconds, I will say ‘I hear you, Coach’ and I will expect you to return to the dugout.”

Ellen wishes she had known this technique all those years before Connor became an umpire!

Ancestry magazine
The Report of My Death was an Exaggeration

Our great-great grandfather’s eulogy was printed in the newspaper... while he was very much alive.

Obituaries, like heirlooms, grow more valuable with time. But when is an obituary not an obituary? When they come before the subject has actually died.  The how and why of premature obituaries can offer chuckles...and surprises.

Click here to read the PDF

Join Ellen on Facebook!

Become a fan of Ellen’s Author page, read her latest articles and commentary, and exchange thoughts and ideas with readers around the world. 

This month’s column: Yes, it IS your problem 

An angry parent writes that a teacher’s working conditions – large class sizes, lack of training and materials, lack of classroom assistance or support staff  - “are not a parent’s problem.” Schools, she argues, are obligated to bring students to grade level equivalency, period, and “a parent isn't required to consider the other children in the class when their child is in need.”

She’s wrong. 

Parents and teachers have an obligation to work together, never more so than in these challenging times.  We’re fond of saying that it takes a village to raise a child. When that village is burning, everyone joins the bucket brigade. No one steps back and says, “I’m not the fireman; it’s not my problem...”

What do you think? Read Yes, it IS your problem in the Notes section of my Facebook page, and join the discussion.

More articles on Facebook:

Winners Quit, Quitters Win: Stop Smoking Today.  I just observed the 25th anniversary of my last puff. You can do it too. Here’s how.

Ready for K – and Beyond.  Is your child ready for kindergarten? Are you? It’s a big, big transition for both of you, but with proper planning, it can be smooth sailing.

Run Ragged.  A happy case of be-careful-what-you-wish-for!

Hokies, Horned Frogs and Hustlin’ Owls.  Just in time for football season, my Top Ten favorite sports team names. Go, UC Banana Slugs!

 Rule Number One: Ask for Help. One principal calls this the most important thing they teach.

More reads

Autism Asperger’s Digest
Postcards from the Road Less Traveled: An Interview with My Son
November-December 2009

In Digest’s 10th anniversary issue, Bryce offers his perspective on being a “different” communicator, moving from middle school to high school, dealing with anger, finding the courage to meet new people and try new things, and how he strives to be “both careful and cool.”

Children’s Voice

Exceptional Children: Navigating Special Education and Learning Differences

Teaching Concentration Skills, September-October 2009
“Paying attention” requires the ability to focus and concentrate on a finite task. When both you and the child understand how his brain processes language and sensory input, you will be able to help him implement strategies to improve his concentration skills.

And Wellness for All, November-December 2009
Physical activity is critically important cognitive, social and emotional health as well. Many children with cognitive and motor learning differences face even greater challenges than their typically-developing peers. Impairments to sensory processing, social cueing and language processing can impede a child’s ability to participate in a general PE class or in team sports. In many cases, these impairments may have little to do with gross motor skills.

New on the website: Visual Strategies for Language-Challenged Learners


The next issue of KidsPeace's award-winning publication, Healing Magazine, due out in November, is devoted to autism. I've been a regular contributor to Healing for the last several years, and highly recommend it as a (free) semi-annual resource offering education and insight to mental health professionals, educators and parents. To join the mailing list, click here.

The autism issue will feature two of my articles. Ever the Optimist looks back on my years of raising a child on the spectrum and why anything less than an optimist attitude never made sense to me. All’s Fair? discusses how to teach the very difficult, abstract and often ephemeral concept of fairness and conflict resolution to our concrete-thinking children with autism. It’s actually a good discussion for all children – of all ages.

Summer 2009 issue is now online. This issue carries a special section focusing on kids and grief.

Also in this issue: my article Ready or Not, Here I Come? Gauging Your Teen’s College Readiness

MetroKids Philadelphia 2009 SpecialKids annual

What Special Needs Teachers Want You To Know

Click here to read online

Danish translation (and seven others) of Ten Things now available

Tak! to Lars Ofverlind, father of a five-year-old with autism, for his superb translation of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew into Danish.

Ten Things (article-length condensation from book) is now available in eight languages: Spanish, French, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Vietnamese and Hungarian. Visit my foreign translation page for these, and information on other foreign translations of my articles and books. 

Autisme en Couleurs is the name of an extraordinary photo exhibition on display at the French Cultural Institute in Kenitra, Morrocco from November 13 – December 12.

Photos by Iman Chair Haidar

Text by Ellen Notbohm 


This exposition is part of a global project aimed at creating of a new vision of autism, not as a handicap or disease, but as a difference.  An autistic person can be beautiful, happy, live an ordinary life, succeed... 

These are photographs of autistic children that Iman took with the permission of concerned parents, but also photographs linked to their universe. All of the pictures relate back to a facet of autism, loaded with hope and of life, far from dark clichés. 

The photographs are underscored with the text of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew.

For more information on Iman’s photographs and the Autisme en Couleurs exhibition, visit

World Catalog: bring my books (and everyone else’s) to you

As a historical researcher, I’d be lost with WorldCat, a global network of  over 10,000 libraries providing access to millions of materials via the Internet and through Interlibrary Loans. If you aren’t yet familiar with this amazing service, check it out immediately. Search WorldCat for books, articles, CDS and archival information not available at your own library, and then ask your librarian if they can facilitate an interlibrary loan, ordering the material from a distant library. Many libraries don’t charge for this service; others charge a small fee.

WorldCat also tells you where the material you seek are located – near and far. When I recently plugged in one of my book titles, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, I found it available at over 450 libraries worldwide, including over 100 university libraries.

WorldCat is mildly addicting and severely mind-boggling. I’m a fan! Can you tell?

An attitude to emulate

Bryce is a junior this year, in his third year of math with Mai-Lill Magi, one of the all-time great high school math teachers. Could we please see widespread adoption of her attitude about daily homework?

“I grade on homework completion and timeliness. If it’s complete and on time, it gets an A. It makes no sense to me to grade on accuracy. Why would I mark students down while they are trying to learn something? We review and redo every missed problem until the student understands what he or she got wrong, and we don’t move on until he/she does.”

Most popular articles on the website this month:

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew

Emma’s Unmarked Rest [PDF]

The Report of My Death is an Exaggeration [PDF]

A Tombstone Tells Its Story [PDF]

My Dirty Little Secret

Newsletter archive on my website

If you are new to our newsletter community, please visit the newsletter archive on my website and browse some popular past features here.

July 2009: A Tombstone Tells Its Story /Sharks and Minnows / Run Ragged

June 2009: For my dad, for all dads / On My Soapbox: Tragedy or Opportunity? / The Difference Between Heaven and Earth

May 2009: Ellen’s Archive: I Sound Like My Mother – I Hope! // Mixed feelings about Autism Awareness Month // Vietnamese translation of Ten Things // Hyperlexia literary journal debut issue

April 2009: Right on the Money// Encouraging playground interaction                                  

March 2009: On hiatus

February 2009: You Said It: Your favorite articles in 2008 // A Readers’ Favorite: Three Little Words

January 2009: On My Soapbox: The Less the Merrier for 2009 // Winners quit, quitters win

December 2008: On holiday – see you next year!

November 2008: Interview: Autism and the Holidays

October 2008: Childhood Obesity: is it abuse? // A-(scavenger) hunting we will go // Happily ever after, in real life

Book excerpts on website

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
from Chapter 8: Please 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 Spectrum Disorders 
from Chapter 2: The Limits of My World – Visual Strategies

The Autism Trail Guide: Postcards from the Road Less Traveled
from Postcards from the Homefront: I Sound Like My Mother – I Hope!

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.

Please forward this newsletter to anyone you feel might share an interest in our kids with autism. New subscribers can sign up at here.

©2009 Ellen Notbohm | Third Variation Strategies

Coming this spring: expanded and updated 1001 Great Ideas

“The Report of My Death was an Exaggeration”

This month’s column on Facebook

This month’s magazine reads

Danish translation of Ten Things now available

Autisme en Couleurs

WorldCat: bring my books (and everyone else’s) to you

An attitude to emulate

Most popular articles on the website this month

Fan me! Keep up with my latest on Facebook
Please join me on my author page on Facebook. This is where you’ll find the latest news, dialogue and preaching ;o) about all the subjects my work encompasses. Become a fan, post your comments and share your ideas. See you there!

This month’s column: Yes, it IS your problem

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