Squeeze Machines, Hug Machines, And The Like

Once before, the Hughes Brothers have begun a review of an autism product – a three-sided toothbrush – by discussing immediately its price, in the brush’s case a paltry five dollars. You should know up front here, in our opinion, that the autism therapy provided in these machines costs as much as six hundred dollars in small, mechanically simple devices for children to more than six thousand dollars for an adult-size, hydraulically controlled model. The Hughes Brothers understand the unavoidable obstacle that sometimes price alone can impose.

A lyrical approach to the squeeze machine

A new book is hitting the autism shelves, How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine, story of an inventive little girl who wanted to be held, but who didn’t like hugs because, to her, “hugs felt like being stuffed inside the scratchiest sock in the world; like a tidal wave of dentist drills, sandpaper, and awful cologne, coming at her all at once. . . . Then one day, Temple had an idea. If she couldn’t receive a hug, she would make one…she would build a hug machine!”

A technical approach to the squeeze machine

A squeeze machine – also known as a hug box, a squeeze machine, or a squeeze box – is a device bringing deep pressure as a means of calming people with autism who struggle with issues of hypersensitivity. In fact, invented by a woman named Temple Grandin as in the story above, the machine delivers sensory relief for people who find it uncomfortable or impractical to turn to other human beings for comfort.

Fairly simple in its initial construction, the squeeze machine involved two hinged side-boards, each four feet by three feet, covered with thick padding, the two boards forming a V-shape. The user lies between the side-boards and adjusts the pressure therefrom using an air compressor.

The Squeeze Machine from especial Needs

Available on Amazon, the Squeeze Machine theoretically works better than weighted blankets because larger amounts of pressure can be applied over larger areas of the body. The air cylinder maintains constant pressure, even if the user changes position.

Most importantly, the pressure – in its amount and its duration – remains in the strict, precise control of the user.

The Squeeze Machine: The structural details

· 60″ tall, 60″ long and 32″ wide
· Constructed from 13-ply 3/4″ birch plywood, sealed and lacquered for a durable smooth finish
· All edges rounded to ensure safety
· High-quality air controls with multiple safety devices
· Fully adjustable, with more than a foot of adjustment in width at the base
· Slots for comfortable placement of the headrest
· Movable control center
· Pads to accommodate either children or adults
· Supports up to 250 pounds

An enduring hope

The Squeeze Machine’s makers extend the possibility: “Since the machine is designed to feel very much like being held by another person, the device might help the user to accept, and perhaps enjoy, being held or touched by another.”
As a matter of fact, Temple Grandin herself admitted that she no longer uses her invention. “”It broke two years ago, and I never got around to fixing it. I’m into hugging people now.”

Moving Mountains, a child’s squeeze machine

Also available on Amazon and retailing just under seven hundred dollars, this much simplified machine – using bands for tension and pressure – will serve children with issues of touch.
· Adjustable pressure rollers for sensory and massage therapies
· Easily adapts to the child’s specific needs for stimulation
· Cushioned foam rollers for even consistent pressure
· Easily portable
· Vinyl-covered rollers for durable wear and easy cleaning

MORE INFO HERE:Moving Mountains Single Squeezer

Games and Toys for Children with Autism

The Hughes Brothers have observed what you too have long known: a Google or Amazon search for “Toys for Children with Autism” will produce more configurations of soft plastic than three Wal-Marts might ever hold. That said, we’ve picked out, firstly, a game unlike any we’ve seen before and, secondly, a toy collection that to our minds represents the positives and negatives of the genre in a most democratic way, consistent with its cousins on Page, oh, 127 of the Amazon listings.

We begin with a game, a toy that stands alone, as far we know, uncopied.

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids

Actually, the longish name of the product (not included here) includes adult participation in the fun, the maker suggesting that this pin art thingee will serve “kiddos as young as eight to adults looking for a great way to kill the time,
hone their creativity, or relieve some stress.”

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids Specs

Let’s turn to the specifics.

· An immediate, accessible means of self-expression. In three dimensions. From the most basic of shapes to configurations approaching works of art.

· Simplicity itself: the creativity arises from the pushing of pins into a board that then brings to life all this eye-catching design. From nothing but blacks and chromes come these fulfilling demonstrations of thought and feeling.

· The board a six-inch star shape that, again per the manufacturer, “makes your cool creation stand out even more.”

· Built to last, this star and its pins – the latter designed to remain exactly where you put them, no slipping out hereabouts with these corrosion-resistant stainless steels pins ready for insertion into a board lightweight but still sturdy, sturdy in its hard, enduring plastic; the result, pins that remain year after year, rust-free, unbending, waiting for good times and creative thought.

· Ready to be a semi-permanent item of décor; again, per its makers, “time-honored metal pin art, a great stress-reliever” and, with enough original ideas, “an awesome conversation starter.” (The Hughes Brothers seem to be relying rather heavily on the promotional verbiage of the pin-art games’ creators. To be sure, but only because we agree wholeheartedly with the claims.)

· Soothing means of sharing focus and enjoyable passage of the hours with children all along the autism spectrum.

· Guaranteed product satisfaction; total and complete money-back guarantee; upon any sort of dissatisfaction either an immediate replacement or a full refund of the really quite reasonable fifteen-dollar purchase price.

Any one of your generic “sensory processing, learning resource, anxiety relief, stress reduction, fidgeting” implements.

The Hugheses threw one of Brother Curtis’ competitive darts at a list of the toys described above and, lo and behold, there stuck the page belonging to, of all people, Mr. E=MC2 and his Twelve Tools for Kids. Here’s what will arrive with your order.

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids includes

· Big MC’s variety value pack including knobby balls, pencil grips, stretchy string, squeeze ball, puzzle balls, lizards – no fooling, lizards, and there toward the bottom of the package, smiley emoji men

Here are the values toward which the value pack aspires.

· Increased attention, greater focus and construction.

· Reduction of anxiety and, get this!, wiggles.

· Academic applications: increased reading fluency and comprehension, more writing skills.

· Self-regulation for children all along the autism spectrum.

· “Uniquely satisfying tactile sensation.”

· Nice pairing of the elements of this kit with sensory necklaces, chewelry, koosh balls, putty, and sensory weighted blankets or vests.

Mr. E suggests that his purpose throughout remains “an inexpensive starter bundle” so that parents and teachers might locate the specific toys that answer individual kiddos’ individual needs.

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids Reviews

And then there come the complaints.

· Cheaply constructed.

· “Not what I expected.”

· And “a complete waste of time.”

This last comment a bit harsh, huh?

The Hughes Brothers recommendation: these sets of toys are a dime a dozen dollars, a hit and miss proposition involving your beloved little one’s likes and dislikes. So. Pick one, much as Curtis’ magic dart, and see what for less than fifteen bucks you might find to like.

MORE INFO HERE:6” Star Pin Art Game for Kids or Adults by ArtCreativity-Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids-Stainless Steel Metal Pins, Sturdy Plastic Frame-Great Party Favor/Gift for Boys-Girls/Office Desk Decoration


The Hughes Brothers apologize for a too-sweeping statement in the review just above. The pin art toy described there is not unique. We just ran across another toy built on the same premise, the Rhode Island Novelty Pin Point Impressions Metal Pin Art. We continue to believe, however, that we reviewed the clearly superior product.

Is Autism Routinely, Radically Misdiagnosed?

In this, the first in a series of articles about supposedly mistaken diagnoses of children allegedly confronting autism, the Hughes Brothers say loudly and right up front here, “We are making no judgments. We’re not qualified to make judgments. We’re reporting. We’re gathering information on every side, the top and the bottom, every last nook and cranny of medical research into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), by whatever name shall ye call it.”

And so please. Please, please use our discussions, our reportage as grist for your own personal investigation into the various clinical issues swirling about the rapidly increasing instance of diagnosed autism in our children. Draw your own conclusions, we beg of you.

In the meantime, we will do our non-professional very best to uncover the nuances of current medical thinking – pro, con, up, down, and all around –the behavioral and developmental patterns surrounding a child you love. As always, we will try to help you make some sense of the daily challenges you face as a parent, a sibling, a guardian, a teacher, a relative, a friend who cares so very deeply about a little one whose little life refuses to conform to any number of societal, of clinical, of individual norms.

Read on, please.

Together, we might make some sense of all this.

Autism by the numbers

The numbers, their multiplication, their seeming random aggregation toward an epidemic

In the past thirty years, diagnosis of autism in children has skyrocketed from, back then, one in five thousand to one in just over a hundred, these numbers the calculations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Elsewhere in these pages, the Hughes Brothers have documented incidence of diagnosis but seventy percent of that last CDC number: one child in sixty-eight now determined to be somewhere along the autism spectrum.

Kindly forgive the vulgarity.

But what the hell is going on here?

That problematic, that slapdown nowhere word “epidemic.”

Here comes bedrock fact, indisputable dictionary-definition truth about the spread of a physical illness, the sad collective state of infection we call an epidemic.

Know this.

The rapid proliferation, by whatever means, of any developmental or genetic disorder is – yesterday, today, tomorrow – scientifically impossible.

Genetics, the manifestation of at least nine months of one-on-one-on-one progression, simply cannot produce the sweeping, all-at-once phenomenon of what qualifies as an epidemic.

It just can’t happen.

Autism Epidemic

So, what if it’s not an epidemic at all?

In some articles immediately forthcoming, we’ll barge into the turgid waters surrounding specific scholarship proving, maybe, that autism just cannot be genetic. Rather, the learned doctors, the investigative geniuses we are about to trot before you, will argue with some scope and some heft that what we call autism, for the most part, remains a symptom of a treatable neurological disease attacking the brain’s immune system. Autism, they will argue, comes forward as a medical problem, a disease, not by any means a psychological or developmental issue.

Rather, occurring as a result of a dysfunction in the neuro-immune system, autism rides along with, oh, AIDS, ADD/ADHD, and chronic fatigue syndrome as examples of secondary neurotropic viruses. And the damage, the deep-down damage, they can do.

Meet Dr. Michael J. Goldberg.

In no, no way might the Hughes Brothers better begin our discussion of alternative diagnoses of autism than with the overpowering, the all-inclusive credentials of Dr. Goldberg.

· Received his medical degree from UCLA and trained at LAC-USC Medical Center

· President of the Neuro-Immune Deficiency (NIDS) Medical Advisory Board

· On the clinical teaching staff at both UCLA and Cedars-Sinai Hospitals

· Seventeen years’ experience in evaluating and treating autism, ADD/ADHD, and chronic fatigue syndrome

Hang on. The ride might bump around a bit.

Book: The Autism Playbook for Teens

The Autism Playbook for Teens: Imagination-Based Mindfulness Activities to Calm Yourself, Build Independence, and Connect with Others (The Instant Help Solutions Series)

Today’s nominee for longest book title in the library, the Playbook comes to you with borrowed recommendation from the Hughes Brothers. From John Howard Hughes in particular, the current rancher and erstwhile cowboy, who says, “As soon as I encountered Temple Grandin’s endorsement for the book, I was sold. Sold completely. Temple Grandin taught me more about handling cattle than any other single source, including my family and my neighbors. If she recommends this book, dealing with teenagers now, as a “real, practical and positive guide for reducing stress,” well, that’s more than enough for me.”

The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: Acting as a means of dealing with autism

Take the “playbook” of the title literally. The premise here: teenagers with autism can be outstanding actors, given their natural proclivity for observation. Teen girls, in particular, have developed remarkable abilities to witness, to imitate, and to internalize appropriate, effective social behaviors.

Many of the recommended exercises come directly from theater, from the lessons to be taught an actor. The thinking here: such exercises help a teenager with autism learn body language – other people’s and their own – as an expression of deeper feeling; how tone of voice becomes appropriate to various roles; how scripting ahead of time can help a teen arrive at school, at a party or sporting event, with relationship skills already practiced. Or rehearsed rather.

And so the book trots out strategies for mindfulness and scripts for roleplaying, each geared toward the reduction of anxiety, living in the present moment, reduction of fears and, ultimately, real and deep and abiding connections with others.

The playbook addresses head-on the issues of teen life – anxiety, bullying, depression, eating disorders, problems with self-esteem, and trauma of several sorts. A teenager with autism will learn here the coping skills now that will take them into adulthood, meanwhile delivering the tools necessary for finding one’s way through school and home-life.

The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: A quick trip through the contents

The book begins with breathing. Teens can learn the immediate, the always there calming effect of meaningful, intentional breathing, breathing as a means of focus and fending off anxious moments.

The Hughes Brothers found Chapter 3 novel and appealing. It deals with what the authors call a “pause button,” a means of confronting a difficult situation by first becoming comfortable with oneself, a minute or two of gathering one’s strength, one’s purpose in dealing with whatever life might send along.

The second part of the book deals with management of thoughts, with finding the energy in one’s feelings, all as building blocks toward true and lasting independence. Chapter 8 here gives very practical, quite useful advice in controlling anger, as the chapter’s title suggests, “Basic Meltdown Prevention.”

Part III of the book looks outward, demonstrating means of connection with other people while retaining control of . . . no, directing one’s own life. In one particularly innovative chapter here, the authors discuss the role that curiosity, simple curiosity might play in enlivening a young person with autism, in finding new sources of intellectual satisfaction, personal interest and, ultimately, joy.

The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: A summation

Some of the book’s pronouncements seem obvious, but they bear repeating in the context of a teenager trying to locate himself among social situations that perhaps have troubled him since early childhood. Case in point: a chapter entitled “Practice kindness: Make Friends.”

The book remains one of a kind, however, the only book available for teens with autism combining the comfort and calm of mindfulness skills with an active, a kinetic resource for building authentic social experiences.

And as John Hughes reminds us, “If it’s good enough for Temple Grandin, it’s good enough for me.”

MORE INFO HERE: The Autism Playbook for Teens: Imagination-Based Mindfulness Activities to Calm Yourself, Build Independence, and Connect with Others (The Instant Help Solutions Series)

Signs of Autism in Girls, Part 2

The criteria described here below and in our preceding article should serve as potential indicators, and nothing much more. No singly symptom alone can suggest autism. If a symptom or two become more pronounced as the years pass, parents or guardians should be able to look back and see there a pattern of behavior enduring from the toddler years onward. And crucially, always and always, look for limitations of daily functioning. If, the presence of symptoms aside, your daughter is progressing with her school work, enjoying her life, making and keeping friends, then not to worry overmuch.

Regardless, if you believe that some of these signs, collectively, describe your loved one, then evaluation by an expert clinician is probably in order. Be certain, however, that the evaluator, or team of evaluators, you select has specific experience with girls on the autism spectrum.

Some more signs then

· The young lady is typically described as “shy” or “quiet” by her teachers and classmates. Diffidence, in and of itself, does in no way indicate autism, not at all. At the same time though, difficulties with language – either receptive or expressive, or both – could be inhibiting a more active role in conversations, a quicker and more natural response to unfolding social situations or to engagements in the classroom.

· In the same vein, unusual passivity, a sign that your loved one doesn’t know what to say or do. She may be playing it safe, sitting silently, choosing to say nothing out of fear saying something wrong, something inappropriate. Know too that some people with autism are anything but passive, displaying self-assertion, if not outright aggression, at every turn. This conflicting sets of indicators again demonstrate the difficulties of diagnosis.

· You notice changes in her behavior as she enters the teenaged years, a tumultuous time in everyone’s life, with autism or not. The changes will usually come in her social communication, easy and forthright as a young girl, but now troubled, increasingly hard for her. The Hughes Brothers have read accounts of young girls with high-functioning autism coping with the difficulties of social interaction, masking their feelings, allowing even encouraging others to speak in their place. Even the best adaptors, the brightest of young girls, find that this strategy disappoints them amid the whirlwind of social expectations as a teenager. The old tactics of darting and feinting in social encounters no longer work.

· And, finally, a dramatic, inescapable indicator – epileptic seizures. Again, while these seizures may arise from all sorts of disorder in the brain, studies show that seizures are more common among girls with autism than among the male counterparts.

The Hughes Brothers give all the credit, all the sympathy in the world to a young lady who has confronted her difficulties, has found away to function amid those challenges. Should you discover that your daughter is, in fact, autistic, take comfort in the depth and scope of treatments, of potential responses to the disorder. Most public school systems can create a plan appropriate for her particular needs. And many parents consider charter or private schools, where smaller classes, more individual attention can serve her well.

Another alternative perhaps

At the Children’s National Health System, and specifically the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders there, clinicians have developed a cognitive behavioral intervention program called “Unstuck and on Target”, a complete program created to teach autistic kids flexibility, goal setting, and planning. Early trials show the program to be especially for children of elementary-school age placing somewhere on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, further testing is going forth on the program’s effectiveness for middle- and high-school-aged kids, who face many more challenges each day to their decision-making skills.

LUNA Kids Natural Sleep Aid Tablets for Children

The LUNA details.

Made for children four-plus years of age, also sensitive adults (The Hughes Brothers offer no suggestion what constitutes sensitivity in the case of grown-ups.)

Sixty chewable pills in each bottle, usually retailed at $15 or so

Very gentle, entirely safe for children

Herbal ingredients: chamomile, valerian, lemon balm

And melatonin, which LUNA lumps with the other herbs when, truly, melatonin is a hormone, secreted by the pineal gland in the brain

The story of a sleep-aid with some maturity about it.

The principal ingredients in LUNA tablets have been used for centuries to improve sleep. Chamomile and lemon balm bring calming, soothing help to the tired child. Valerian root functions as a mild sedative. All gentle and non-habit forming.

Now about that melatonin.

LUNA claims that “We add a very small amount of melatonin to nudge your child to sleep at night without feeling groggy in the morning.” Okay, fine.

But know this: melatonin inevitably leads to more REM sleep, that deep slumber wherein dreams arise. REM sleep is a phenomenon of normal circadian rhythm (the daily progress of waking hours and sleep in its various cycles), and the dreams do follow.

A consideration about your child’s dreams.

The Hughes Brothers have encountered complaints from parents who admit that the LUNA tables do indeed help their children fall asleep, stay asleep. But. But some of the dreams which follow are no fun at all. Nightmarish in a heart-wrenching way for parents who overhear their child enthralled to a bad, bad dream.

We must caution the post-hoc/propter-hoc logical fallacy here. Just because the poor child suffered through some personal boogymen after taking melatonin, that fact does necessarily that the poor child suffered through some personal boogymen because of taking melatonin.

At the same time, we know children who report fairy-tale dreams, happy endings all around, after using LUNA a half-hour before bedtime.

Your child’s friend, vitamin D.

LUNA tablets bring along a major boost of supplemental vitamin D3. Essential for good health all around, a healthful level of vitamin D has been shown to enhance quality of sleep and, come morning, to uplift kiddos’ mood.

Meanwhile, the tablets themselves are kid-friendly.

Parents, take comfort in LUNA pills popping into little Junior’s eager mouth with no sugar whatsoever, with a flavor of tropical berries that LUNA bets he’s going to like. All natural flavors, of curse, with stevia-leaf extract and xylitol, a sweet-tasting crystalline alcohol derived from xylose, as found in some plant tissues.

Now, about dosages.

The bottle dose says “one tablet twenty or thirty minutes before bedtime.” Some parents have experimented with dosages ranging from a half-tablet for very young or, again, “sensitive” children, while two tables have proven best for teenagers.

Noteworthy: Mike Hughes’ daughters have encountered families wherein whatever dosage has been given is, for some reason or other, interrupted. Each of those families report next-morning regression, after restless sleep and consequent lethargy and rotten mood.

About the price.

Pure melatonin, over the counter, costs less than the average cost for sixty LUNA tablets, but some parents believe that the rather miniscule amount of melatonin here interferes less with the pineal gland’s usual work.

Lastly, about LUNA the company.

The Hughes Brothers admit being softies for sentiment, genuine sentiment, and LUNA manifests such here, there, and all the time. We mean, here’s a pharmaceutical company asking for it all: “You are our beloved customers. And we hope you’ll love us too.” These folks advertise “a new standard of honesty in the health supplement industry.” LUNA insists on third-party testing of every batch of supplements off the line. Good gosh, they seek happiness as a consequence of using their products.

One could do worse.

LUNA Kids | 1 Sleep Aid Tablets for Children 4+ and Sensitive Adults | Naturally Sourced Ingredients | 60 x Chewable Pills | Gentle, Herbal Supplement with Chamomile, Melatonin, Valerian & Lemon Balm

The NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb

“Sleep well, astronauts,” this sleep-enhancing bulb says from Houston Control. Few endorsements of any product carry the heft of “NASA,” and if NASA suggests that this light bulb promotes sleep, well then who are we Hughes Brothers to argue. We’re told by the seller, the specialized gift-givers over at Hammacher Schlemmer, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses the bulb “to help astronauts sleep in peace.” Indeed if anyone were deserving of eight solid hours of easy sleep, it would be our nation’s intrepid space travelers.

The Hughes Brothers offer you this review, for adults with sleep difficulties as well as for younger people with ASD.

Our friend, melatonin.

The theory behind the bulb involves the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.


Typical light bulbs emit high levels of short-wavelength blue light that suppresses melatonin. By filtering out the blue light – up to a fifty percent reduction claims HS – the NASA bulb encourages a better night’s sleep. As with so many products developed in NASA labs, a patent covers the filter. Typical use of the bulb would call for a half-hour’s reading or crossword solving by the light of the bulb in a bedside lamp, maintaining the body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to falling asleep faster and waking more refreshed. (The nine-watt LED gives off the same light as a 65-watt incandescent – perfect light for reading – but lasts, we’re told, up to sixteen times longer.) A lifetime guarantee from Hammacher Schlemmer accompanies the bulb. Whether sleep improves or not.

“Not a bad bulb,” says Mike Hughes.

Mike, the youngest of the Hughes boys, confronts insomnia occasionally after long power-hours at his NASA-strength computer. He used the bulb to “pretty good” effect. “The first couple of nights, the bulb produced no noticeable results. But I persisted, and by week’s end I was most definitely sleeping better. And longer. Far less of the tossing and turning that has bothered me for several years now.”

Two of us older brothers fared even better. Dave Hughes reported “dramatic improvement,” Dave even more sleep-deprived than our little brother. “My first night using the bulb I slept nine hours, waking only once, and then just because of the neighbor’s damn barking dog.” Even loud-mouthed Barky, however, could not prevent our drowsy brother from falling almost immediately back to sleep.

Big bladders help. They really, really do.

James Hughes owns the biggest bladder in the family – hell, in the whole town – and he has heretofore escaped the thrice-nightly pees that plague the continuity of brother John Howard Hughes’ otherwise workable slumber. So James did fall asleep faster, he thinks, over the course of a week’s use, while John – who has always been first to fall asleep – found the bulb no help in countering the urges of a urinary tract he refuses to keep free of evening Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Some sleep problems simply can’t be helped without a fifty-or-so-watt increase in willpower.

Our friends, the holistic medicine crowd.

We Hughess know of friends, consumers of holistic medical care, who first used the bulb because of its non-pharmaceutical nature. Unfortunately, a couple of those folks report no help at all, not in the quickness or the quality or the duration, of their sleep. From our experience, both personal and reported, the bulb does bat at least .750 in a very tough league.

And, its sleep-inducing properties aside, everyone agrees that the soft radiance of the bulb’s light could not be warmer, nor more soothing. One of the Hughes wives mentioned that her complexion had never looked better.

A bit pricey – the cost not a deal-breaker, but a consideration.

Oh, at forty bucks the bulb is a bit pricey. Should it work as intended, however, it will quickly pay for itself with money saved on other, consumable sleep aids. And a final note: the bulb need not be used alone; in conjunction with other sleep stimulators, a very workable package might be discovered.

Laminated Shower Chart

Just made for children autism or with special needs otherwise, this waterproof chart goes directly into the shower to help the child take care of personal hygiene with some independence, some assurance, some thoroughness.

Here’s the procedure.

The Hughes Brothers are sold on the attention to detail, the sheer amount of solid information on a chart measuring but nine-by-eleven inches. The steps follow.

· Turn on water. (with a neat little inset showing the “just right” temperature setting on the shower knob)

· Wet body.

· Get 1 pump of soap (with a visual instruction to push down on the soap dispenser, labeled “3 in 1,” indicating the soap’s usefulness as a shampoo, a facial cleanser, and a body cleanser)

· Wash hair.

· A repeat now: get 1 pump of soap.

· Wash face.

· Wash ears.

· Wash neck.

· Rinse all soap off.

· Get two pumps of soap.

· Wash chest.

· Wash arms.

· Wash stomach.

· Wash legs.

· Wash feet (with a cautionary instruction, “Lean on wall.”)

· Wash private area and bottom.

· Rinse all soap off.

· Finished. Turn off water.

· Get towel and dry all off.

· Great job.

Please understand that each of these guidances is accompanied by a cartoon drawing of a happy unisex kiddo going modeling the prescribed action at every step. We see, for example, the smiling little person leaning on the shower wall, one leg lifted up and over the opposing thigh.

An encapsulation of the chart’s byproducts

· Independence – The ease of these step-by-step instructions builds quick understanding in a child with ASD, knowing now that daily showering is a necessary task that can be completed without parental assistance.

· Confidence – Parents may relax a bit; the child is safely and completely achieving self care.

· Enjoyment – The child will find good fun in learning a daily ritual that perhaps heretofore had been difficult and time-consuming.

· Familial Peace of Mind: Parents may take heart in the knowledge that with this daily assignment now being managed by the child, even as other skills, other responsibilities, other goals seem not just possible, but likely.

Help for children with autism, of course, but for all children in fact

Such charts as these, designed by parents for parents, focus on helping children learn, for themselves, by themselves. While charts and schedules have long been an integral part of raising children with autism, the same teaching and learning methodology applies to all young people, visual learners most especially.

The Hughes Brothers find it troubling, however, that the details of manufacture, the mechanical, logistical failings of some products prevent the flowering of some good pedagogical ideas. Sadly, we’ve seen some well-intentioned products go astray. An extended example follows.

Autism Product Review Visual Morning Routine Chart

A companion to the showering chart just reviewed, this products makes full, permitted use of the picture communication symbol images developed by Mayer-Johnson (whose value has been discussed in another Hughes Brothers review). As we reported there, the Mayer-Johnson symbols are the most common visual symbols used in the teaching and development of children with learning disabilities, largely because of the ease of the symbols’ understanding and implementation. The theoretical basis of the Visual Morning Routine Chart could not be stronger.


This chart has been widely panned by parents who found the product, in many instances, dysfunctional. Their came complaints of its size, too small for easy following. Of its difficulty of placement; that is, the chart doesn’t really hang, it doesn’t really sit. Of its problematical management of cards. Of insufficient storage for the cards.

Minor imperfections perhaps, but the functional gripes proved in many cases sufficient to looking past the good, good message of the cards, their wonderful symbolism.

Too bad.

MORE INFO: HOM ABA/OT Approved Step-By-Step 100% Sealed and Laminated Shower Chart for Kids. Ideal for Children with Autism or Special Needs. Helps with Teaching Self Care. PECS Charts, Visual Schedules, Aids

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve M.D.

Now five years from its publication, the Survival Guide remains one of a kind; that is, a book meant to be read, in the company of a parent, by a child with ASD. Kid-friendly and then some, no-nonsense, straight-ahead, this book has become a true and comprehensive resource for children trying to understand their situation. Even more, the guide brings along tools to help these kids cope with the difficulties of their daily lives.

Of course, the book underscores the differences, some significant, among children with ASD: some academically gifted, some struggling with life in the classroom; some introverted, some trying so very hard to be social and socially appropriate; some with limited interests, some fixated on a particular object or activity; some dealing with repeated motor movements (“stims” discussed in a Hughes Brothers review on chewing products). The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders addresses all of these variables, helping children know themselves better, accept themselves more fully.

The book begins with the fundamental, the overwhelming questions of a child: “What is happening to me?”, “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “How come only I feel and behave this way?” Again, the authors know that kids can handle the truth, and so they deliver the answers. And then they move on to what might done in the face of those answers.

Ms. Verdick and Doctor Reeve do a magnificent job of simplifying, making available to a child the basics of the human body, the human brain. With this semi-clinical understanding in place, the authors move on to suggestions for managing symptoms while guiding the child through the daily importance of diet, exercise, hygiene, fun and relaxation, sleep, and even toileting. Child readers, and their parents, will find here means of handling their sometimes overpowering emotions and their consequent behaviors. Stories from other children who have confronted the same difficulties bring the book’s necessary abstractions into sharp, knowable focus.

The book’s key features

· Brilliantly colored text

· Cartoon drawings

· Well organized

· Fact boxes

· Checklists for daily activities

· References to other resources

· Glossary

The book’s strongest points

· Eminently readable

· At last, a voice – a knowing and sympathetic voice – for children with autism

· A fine balance between data-laden academic books and overly simplistic books for children only

· A tone neither condescending or overly lofty

· Definitely of more value higher-functioning children with ASD

· A frank and open look at ASD, with no social, no physical manifestation of the disorder off limits

· Real problems with real solutions from and for real kids

· An emphasis on every child’s unique, priceless gifts

No book is perfect. And so.

Boys are diagnosed with autism five times more frequently than girls, and the book chooses its examples, its suggestions toward that fact. The Hughes Brothers, however, have encountered a strong wish from parents of little girls with autism for more inclusion of their needs, of potential responses to ASD that are specifically theirs.

Some parents have said that the book focuses heavily on dealing with situations at school, thereby precluding families who home-school their children. In this same vein, the book does lean toward children who seek sensory stimulation. Little is made for children who avoid sensation at all costs. Some parents worried that guide perhaps gives too much weight to medication.

Still, a book for everyone. Really, everyone.

Obviously directed at families with children on the spectrum, the guide nonetheless serves the greater community, most especially as diagnoses of ASD continue to increase. The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders will help teachers, school administrators, counselors, parents of children who other children with ASD, indeed anyone who knows a family confronting the struggles of ASD.

MORE INFO: The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents)

Autism in Girls

The Hughes Brothers report these numbers with sadness.

One American child in sixty-eight is affected by autism, with boys included in that fraction at a rate five times that of girls.

New research suggests, however, the diagnostic methods currently recognized as best medical practice often overlook girls, a distressing thought meaning that even more young people may find themselves on the spectrum of autism disorder.

Three principal reasons for this newfound disparity

· Findings – from both behavioral analysis and preliminary neuroimaging – manifest themselves differently in girls, most specifically in that young females with autism are closer in their social skills to males developing typically.

· Almost all of the criteria for diagnosing autism have been built around boys, including behaviors that in girls might heretofore have been diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or, even, anorexia.

· Until recently, prevailing clinical opinion held that, if autism were to manifest itself in girls, the symptoms would be far more severe than in boys, particularly in intellectual disability. Not necessarily so, the new research says.

Compensation and clinical bias, unintended, of course

Autism’s skewed gender ratio may arise, first of all, from girls ability to hide or to compensate somehow for the symptoms of ASD. The abilities in social situations cover for some of the underlying behavioral symptoms of the disorder. Further, ongoing research tells us that biological factors – girls and boys are indeed different – might prevent the development of the condition, beginning at birth.

The bias, based on all best thinking at the time, has historically called for more, and more serious, behavior problems or more troubles intellectually, or both, in girls before a diagnosis of autism might be made.

The unfortunate conclusion researchers are coming to, then: clinicians are missing many young females appearing on the less disabling end of the autism spectrum, what has traditionally been called Asperger’s syndrome.

“Restricted interests,” as an indicator of autism in girls

Tightly focused, repetitive all day long, and peculiarly personal, the intense fixation on a particular subject or objects can be a key indicator of autism at its less severe. (The Hughes Brothers have already reported on our little buddy Charley, up in Minneapolis, whose passion in life involves cassette tapes. No CDs. No vinyl, thank you very much. Just audio cassettes, the music thereon not much of a concern but, man oh man, the individual tape must, must, must be in its proper case.) Now, the studies referenced earlier reports that girls exhibit far fewer of these restricted interests. Could it be, however, that this differential might arise from the examples used in the diagnosis being more oriented toward boys. That is, the diagnostic factors might involve dinosaurs or toy trains far more than stereotypically female interests, dolls for instance, or pretty shoes. This weighted value of typically boyish interests contributes as well to the frequent failure of diagnosis of ASD in girls.

A nationwide, prestigiously academic effort in the study of women and girls with autism

The Hughes Brothers know of a major study of girls with autism, and adult women as well, being conducted in collaborative research at Harvard University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Washington. This study, a far-reaching and ongoing search for clinical information, will follow participants through their childhood and on to early adulthood. The researchers are spending time with, asking pointed questions of families of these girls, these women because they know firsthand the most problematic behaviors, the most troublesome symptoms of ASD. And the most helpful solutions thereto.

The study goes far beyond autism: brain scans, genetic testing and other such measures will tell us much about developmental differences in girls and boys attributable to autism, as opposed to gender. But also raising questions about whether autism affects sex differences in the brain and, ultimately how genetic and environmental factors come together in the production of gender-particular behaviors.

The Hughes Brothers have much more to say on the subject.

Please stand by.