Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Caring for Myself is an educational picture book that breaks down the daily activities in small steps for a child on the autism spectrum to learn through the social story and visual supports of children demonstrating these techniques in vibrant color photographs.
This is co-authored by Christy Gast and Jane Krug. Christy is a publications and event coordinator for the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding. One of her son’s has Asperger’s Syndrome. Jane is a speech-language therapist and volunteers at The Gray Center. The photographer is Kotoe Laackman. It is also mentioned on the jacket cover that a hair salon and a Pediatrics group allowed photographs taken at their places of business. This was first published in 2008 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. I found my copy at a Barnes and Noble store.
The introduction gives ideas on how to tailor Caring for Myself by placing your own photographs over the ones within the pages of the book and adapting the text as appropriate for the child. At the end of each task there is a “pause for thought” page for the parents with specific tips and strategies to personalize their own steps in the task at hand.
The skills promoted in Caring for Myself consist of Washing My Hands, Getting My Hair Cut, Taking My Bath, Going to My Doctor and Brushing My Teeth. This covers 96 pages showcasing boys, girls and professionals relating to each living skill displayed.
The first page for each task has the following information at the first page:
These are all in various colors with the response to each word in black text. There is a small image next to the title of the item represented in the task. This is soap, scissors, bubbles, medicine bag and toothbrush. At the bottom of the page are five small images taken from the section displaying these steps.
Washing My Hands begins with the girl explaining the many things she can do with her hands. She goes on to do some finger painting, which results in having to wash her hands. One page does go over germs and covering your mouth with your hands. This girl prefers to wash her hands in the bathroom. She has on the counter a schedule standing vertically with seven photos of the steps needing to wash her hands. The following seven pages have one sentence describing each step in this task with the girl demonstrating.
The tips for the parents mentions sensory issues being the water temperature, texture of the soap (bar, foam, liquid) and the scent of the soap. I placed long ago a step procedure on the wall over the kitchen sink for my nonverbal son Matthew. Unfortunately it is with bar soap and we use liquid soap. I really think it is best to use the exact type of item as shown in the photographs and luckily I came across a step chart with liquid soap and will change that over on my wall.
My son Nicholas is high functioning and recently turned 13. He washes his hands very frequently and for some reason he walks around the kitchen while rubbing the soap into his hands. The computer is here in the kitchen as well, and the scent is overpowering and quite distracting to me when he does this. He also gargles with his rinse and goes into the bathroom to dry his hands while this is in his mouth and then the sound of his spitting it out in the sink stuns causes a reaction in me.
Getting My Hair Cut explains this can be done at home, a salon or barber shop and has a boy in the story. They show that you may have to wait before getting your hair cut and a chair is displayed. They did not show that a child will most likely have to sit on something to have them higher up for their haircut on the chair. The tools used are mentioned – combs, brushes, scissors and razors. This also entails a clump of hair on the floor, since this might be disturbing to some kids on the spectrum. "As my stylist is cutting my hair, some of the hair may fall to the floor or onto the cape." The stylist may use a water spray on their hair and a blow dryer. There are visuals for these steps too. It is emphasized to sit still when getting a haircut. The boy is shown holding a fidget (toy) in each hand to keep him occupied. I was surprised they did not show a parent standing close by to soothe the child.
The tips page did suggest visiting the salon prior to the day getting the haircut and observe one. Other tips include bringing a book or toy, taking photos and having the child sit on a parents lap for the haircut.
Taking My Bath explains this can be done in the morning or evening. The boy starts with baking cookies with his Mother and having his Father help with filling the bath water. The boy removes his clothes while the water is filling up with the Father setting a timer for ten minutes for playtime before cleaning the body. It did not look like a lot of water and there was no adult present to watch over the child while in the bathroom. It also did not indicate whether the door was left open or closed. Once the timer goes off the boy puts the toys into a basket and starts rubbing the washcloth with soap. The boy pours shampoo onto a green sticker that was placed by the Father to indicate how much to use. The Father does not show up in any photographs until the end to rinse off the shampoo. An example of the first page description follows:
What: take a bath
Where: in a bathtub
When: in the morning or in the evening
How: by washing their body parts with soap, and their hair with shampoo
Why: because a bath gets all the dirt, stickiness, and sweat off their bodies
The tips mention using a visual schedule to encourage independent washing. It is suggested to use tearless shampoo and soap. The sensory issues are the same as for hand washing and include the texture of the washcloth (sponge, loofah).
I still have the shower poster up in the bathroom for when Matthew makes that transition from bath.
Going to My Doctor - this does mention that you go when healthy and when sick. A girl is going to the Doctor with her Mother and states she does this at least once a year. There are toys in the waiting room and then the nurse calls and weighs and measures her height before taking her into the examining room. Then her blood pressure is checked and she is in a gown on the table waiting for the Doctor. He checks her hearing, heart, reflexes and has her lay down to push on her stomach. Next she is getting dressed and walks out of the office with her Mother.
It would have been reassuring for children to see Mother in the room with the girl, standing to the side. The tips cover using pretend play with a Doctor’s kit to prepare child and model actions and vocabulary. This can be done with a sibling or stuffed animal. Another tip is to visit the office and meet the nurse and see the examining room. A photo of child and Doctor or nurse can be taken to help prepare for the actual visit. It is suggested to call the office from parking lot to let them know you are arriving to help ease the anxiety in waiting. I agree with this and actually call from home before we go so that the office is prepared for us. I pack a bag with snacks, reading material and water for our Doctor visits.
Brushing My Teeth - It is explained that this is done after eating using a toothbrush and toothpaste. The boy says he has learned how to care for his teeth. His story starts with a baby picture explaining the process of tooth development. There is a picture of food, “ My teeth help me to chew my food into smaller bits so that it is easier for me to swallow.” This story discusses germs, where to store your brush and paste along with how to pick up the toothbrush (by the handle). The steps of brushing are demonstrated along with the cup and water for rinsing. The boy states, “ I don’t swallow the water. Instead, when I am done, I spit it into the sink.”
The tips page explains sensory issues with the flavor of the toothpaste, (gel or paste) and if using a manual or electric toothbrush. A timer, singing ABCs or listening to a song are suggested, as well as using a chart for the routine with stickers. Taking pictures of your child and placing them over the one in the book is another tip. Another tip mentions taking your child to pick out their toothbrush and cup.
I really liked the first page of each story, as well as the tips pages. The kids show the steps with ease to complete these tasks with simple text accompanying the photographs. This is a wonderful book for families, therapists, schools, teachers and other professionals who work and come in contact with children on the autism spectrum. There is no specific age range mentioned by the authors.
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.