Visual Strategies – Mapping lectures, outlines, and projects

Happy Saturday,

I hope its going well.

Mine has been busy as always, and like many days, I am fighting a headache.

I have it down to a low ache, so am at least upright.

My Duke course started this week.

Here are this morning’s lecture notes:


I find that making a visual or “mind” map of a  mostly verbal (spoken) lecture helps me to better remember it than typical note taking style . While I listened to the lecture I used a pencil to map out the main ideas in one word or short phrases as well as, in some instances pictorial representations. Afterwards I color coded each section and went over my writing in marker and ink pencils.  Then I erased the pencil.

While looking at this again will jog my memory, the very act of creating it helps me to move this information into long term memory.

Visual strategies have been useful not just in my learning, but for the children as well.

Last year Aidan and I created a large character map for the graphic novel he is working on.


It works for taking notes and outlining ideas, but also for presenting projects.  While I like to hand-draw maps, the kids like to use popplet . It is intuitive and does not take long to learn at all.

Click t o see a popplet project of Lily’s from last  year about Benjamin Banneker.

Peter also uses popplet for making maps related to things such as likes and dislikes, his family tree, and animal classification.

An application with more options that I like to use is “Mindomo.” My mindomo visual map about parenting focus and the neuro-divergent child is here.

Both are free use for three maps and then if you want to make more, it costs.  I am not receiving any kind of compensation for recommending them, I just like them.

In the future I’d like to discuss how we use schedules and checklists now, as well as the visual strategies we used before Peter began to read and write.


Sunday Silliness

When I first saw the word #shelfie I didn’t think of pictures of shelves. Oh no, I thought of people posing with sea shells. Which is of course absurd and so then I began to think of other absurd new selfie themes.

I really think the #skullfie could take off, don’t you????



The Autism Mommy Blogger Trap

Morning Minions!

Its cold, rainy, and dark today.

At least it isn’t icing or snowing.

Very soon, my autistic son Pete is turning  thirteen.

. DSCN9989

Pete getting ready for the day, love that smile.

I do not often blog about Pete specifically beyond about his learning.

WHY? It’s a potential trope trap.

Autism mommy bloggers (and Dads) often fall into these trope categories when they blog about their children:

  •  THE BITCHING BLOG : child and/or autism as family destroying, suffering and creating suffering, Sainted mommy martyr shares every detail of what a monster junior is


  •  THE SAINTED BLOG : child is special, (kid and mom get to be saints) mom only talks abut how amazing junior is and shares their and their child’s continuous saint like insights about autism, life, the universe, everything!!


  • THE PITY BLOG: child as being a toddler in the body of an older person. Mom documents her child’s struggles. Its ohh, ohh so hard, but they can’t help it.  *sniff* It’s so inspiring.


  • THE WARRIOR BLOG! : child and family in a battle against time! Mom pats herself on the back for the child’s every single acheivement

These and other depictions DO NOT tend to portray the kid as a whole person.

There is often also major violation of a child’s privacy. Intimate day to day details are shared.

Sometimes parents also do this with typical children.  Often it is  obtain attention, to vent and get support or pity.

Parenting is hard.

I know that some people do not see issues with sharing personal information about others.

It is against my rules of engagement.

I feel that venting and ranting about private matters is something that should be done in private, with people who understand the situation not for the whole world to read. (acknowledge there are exceptions especially with abuse)

When I share about Pete or the other children I need to be careful not to fall into those categories or violate their privacy. Pete is exceptionally tricky, because language barriers keep me from knowing if I have his consent.

I ask myself,

How can I share without compromising privacy, giving a one sided view, or otherwise exploiting them?

I cannot share too much detail which leads to the possibility of his being perceived as less than a whole person. If I share only achievements and positivity,it puts me in the position of the sainted blogger.  I cannot see how I could avoid it.

Pete is not a toddler in a teenager’s body, a saint, a demon,or spiritually special.

He’s a thirteen year old autistic teenager.

He’s beginning puberty so it goes without saying, he’s a sweetheart and a turkey with developing individuality and self concept.

We have good days and not so good.

When people make snap judgments about my son based on shallow information, they miss out on understanding and knowing  a funny and complex guy.


Recently Lego Creator kits have become very cool.

I wish I could share this young man with you more but I fail to see how I could avoid the trap.



Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Last year I posted a review of  “The Enigma” the book which the movie “The Imitation Game” is said to be based.

The day after Christmas I went to see the movie.

That’s right, I went out to the mall on THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, which is only slightly less tortuous to my psyche than “Black Friday.”

I wanted to see it that bad.

I also wanted to like it SO BADLY, I waited nearly a month to write this review.

The Imitation Game is entertaining, well acted, and keeps one’s attention from start to finish.

Benedict Cumberbatch does an excellent job playing the character.  I loved the interactions between his character and Charles Dance’s as well as he and Matthew Goode. I have no objections to his best actor Oscar nomination.

“The Imitation Game” has a good message concerning judging differences and acceptance. It does. I tried to convince myself this and the acting and cinematography were good enough reason to like the movie and review it positively.

I did like the movie. I cannot review it positively.


It isn’t is the real story of Alan Turing or the work of Bletchley park.

Now I had heard ahead of time that there were changes to the story. I’m cool with that. I understand that when adapting something to the screen its often necessary to change things for time or story flow.

Believe me, “The Enigma” doesn’t flow well.

I also heard it was changed to make the issues in solving the code to be more simplistic. This I also get. Having read the book, I can attest the average movie goer isn’t going to want to sit through the explanations I read through.

I walked away from the movie wondering just what book this was supposed to be based on. It is not accurate to the book, nor to the time period. It doesn’t  realistically represent the work at Bletchley park, Alan’s relationships there, or most especially, the role Joan Clark played in Alan’s life.

The movie reduces Joan to a shallow plot vehicle. It is incorrect in how they met, how she was hired,  her parents lack of support, why and how they were engaged, how the engagement was broken off and the amount of time they spent together. Essentially, they erased Joan Clark’s legacy in order to give a shallow representation of Turing’s.

The same can be said for Alan’s childhood friend/love Christopher.

Christopher’s storyline is interspersed and also shallow. I don’t believe it accurately portrays their relationship nor the depth that his loss had on Alan as much as establishing he was bullied and gay.

There was also a spy story thrown in. I guess to make it more exciting? I don’t know.

This movie could have been made significantly better by using the same cast and making it a miniseries so as to fully explore the story.  I think real life stories can be dramatic, and also fairly accurate without being documentaries.

I am sure the movie will lead some people to learn more about Mr. Turing. However, many will walk away thinking that the story is spot on and not bother to dig any deeper.

It seems the “message” was more important than the actual man.


As an aside, many watching and reviewing the  movie want to label Alan Turing with aspergers or autism spectrum disorder.  I do not think diagnosing the dead on second and third hand information is either accurate nor beneficial to living people with autism spectrum disorder.  Unlike Cumberbatch, my objections having nothing to do with ableist notions of “false hope” or speculation as to childhood neglect but because diagnosis is simply more than a relatives opinion or interpretations of interpretations of second hand reminiscences of behavior. Its like some crazy game of historical telephone where misconceptions and the stereotypes they re-enforce are no game.

Ableism in Every Day Life (updated)

This piece was first published on Quora in response to the question, “What are some examples of ableism in everyday life?.

I’ve updated it a bit so am reposting.

Language and Rhetoric

Language and thinking are reciprocal in that language is both an expression of  how we perceive the world as well as shapes how we perceive the world.  One of the easiest ways to begin combatting ableism is to correct our language.

Some examples:

  • The “R-word,  “Short bus” jokes,  calling persons with political differences blind or crippled” in their views are ways we associate ignorance or difference of opinion with disability.  I am personally guilty of using words like idiot or moron to describe ignorance. While they do not have the more recent use as retard for referring to  intellectual disability, they are are also abelist, and I am trying to remove them from my vocabulary. It’s difficult I know, but I think we can all grow in this respect.
  • The use of hyperbole to describe mental disorders and physical disabilities.  Comparing disability to fatal illness, as tragedy, turns people into objects of pity, or vehicles for feeling “inspired.”   Example: both media and personal narratives that uses phrases  such as “trapped” “locked” “imprisoned”  “tragedy” “lost” and “non living.”

Victim Blaming

Personal experience: My son with aspergers was attacked in school.  He had no part whatever in the altercation. No one was punished. It was suggested if my son had counseling to learn better social skills, the students would like him more. This is a child who described as a sweetheart by his teachers and often explained confusing concepts/tutored his peers.

There was a similar incident in the news of late, parents saying a child with aspergers somehow deserved to be bullied because he is “annoying.”

Lack of Access and Representation of disabled persons

The treatment of persons as a side show, as inspiration, as feel good stories,
is sometimes called inspiration porn because it objectifies.

Lack of physical access and also lack of access in terms of representation and the silencing of opinion/input on decisions directly affect everyday life , opportunity and available resources.

Lack of access and representation includes:

  • Making public areas unwelcome  because of reactions example: not respecting the personal boundaries of persons in wheelchairs
  • Allowing ableist narratives  with no alternative view or accountability for statements made
  • Denying persons decision making  in their own lives
  • Refusing to give the level of respect due to a person
  • Denying life saving medical treatments
  • Ignoring lack of representation in decision making civically example: government commitees, research and charitable organizations who do not seek the council of who they represent
  • Restricting physical access examples: road “improvements” that remove lights and crossings the blind rely on for safety and independence,  job interviews in buildings with no ramps

Popular Media

1. The fetishization and misrepresentation of mental DISORDERS, and PHYSICAL disability IN ENTERTAINMENT

Common Tropes Include:

*spiritual or magical powers
*dangerous mentally ill
*bitter crip
*tragic but oh so inspiring
*longing to be “normal”/fixed
*physical disability as merely psychological
*child like, the loveable simpleton

Examples are: Touch, BBC Sherlock, Hannibal, Dr. Who, most crime shows such as Criminal Minds, NCIS and CSI, every Steven King movie with an autistic type character, Rainman, HOUSE, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (especially hollywood version) to name but a few of a very long list.

Keep in mind, I like many of these examples. Remember,  problematic does NOT equal “You’re evil if you like these shows or actors.”
When disabled character are portrayed it is most often by a non disabled actor.

2. The news media

The news media is guilty of nearly every example mentioned from hyperbole and trope to lack of representation and unchallenged ableist narratives.

For more information:
What is Ableism? Five Things About Ableism You Should Know

On bullying and school

While many parents homeschool for reactionary reasons concerning poor or religiously incompatable curriculum,  one of my reasons  is personal safety and self esteem.

One winter day three years ago I got a phone call from my son’s math teacher.

“I really think you need to remove Aidan before he gets hurt. I’m really worried.”

I contacted the principal after that phone call. Unfortunately the only thing my raising concerns did was to get the math teacher in trouble.

Later he was attacked.  The four children responsible for knocking my son down and kicking him were not punished.  There was never a single complaint about Aidan. Teachers said he was pleasant  and went out of his way to try to help his peers  with difficult problems.

However that day, the social worker there suggested  a solution to the bullying was social skills lessons. FOR AIDAN.

oh hell no.

I’ve been there before and I won’t stand for it happening to my kids. If the system won’t protect them, then the system is a failure.

A story from me:




Following the Threads of Access and Acceptance


Happy Friday Evening  Internet!

As an associative thinker my mind is always seeing connections in well,


Some  connections are incidental, accidental, or spurious and so have no meaning beyond the importance my mind places on them. Other times connections are quite complicated but accurate.

Teasing out the threads to come to a point  can be time consuming.

If it were to be representable in real life it would look less like this:


a nicely organized spider web

and more like this background here:


Sherlock Holme’s “web of conspiracy” in “Game of Shadows”-Robert Downey jr. drinking embalming fluid not included.

Lucky for you, issues brought up in my reading  and on twitter recently  all have a rather obvious connection. The issues are:

  • The Impact of  UK Shared space design on access for the blind
  • Lack of  minority representation  in the entertainment industry , and more broadly, any white male dominated professions


  • Persons without disabilities playing disabled characters and the lack of hiring, recruitment, availability and promotion of actors with disabilities


This graphic was shared as well:


Frankly, you could make this about any minority.

 Finally Becca Makin asks why change to accommodate or include persons with disability is often so opposed, when other adaptations are easily and keenly encouraged by society.  Like the list above, many excuses are used as to why access isn’t possible or desirable.

Becca points out that we human beings collectively EXCEL at modifying the environment to suit us.

Why is there pushback or apathy towards access or acceptance?

So often it is because the minority (doesn’t matter what type) is othered.

If we don’t consider the disabled, or a gender,  or different color, or religion “one of us” there is no feeling of societal benefit in change.

So often It is because the concept of “normal” is held as the ideal, making the inevitable outliers lesser.

If a person is  less, we can feel superior as so place blame for difficulties on the person.

So often it is because we are lazy.

If we  put responsibility for change on the minority there is no need to expect power structures/status quo account for how they create or encourage inequality.











Frozen assets, visual clutter, strange charm of twitter, and wasted pulp

Morning Minions!

I hope your week went well.

Remember when I complained about the rain?

Well its cold here now, so I shall complain about that.

At -11F, its cold enough to freeze your Winnebago.  Prior to the subzero temps this week, we had our first snow of the year and winter thus far.


As you can see we played in the snow a bit,


nommy snow.

but spent most of the week organizing bedrooms.

I also began organizing and planning in the work room for our next school session.

  A robust lower elementary environment is taking shape, however I find I need to reduce the visual clutter going on for my sensory sensitive students.

Everything is always a work in progress.

 I also continue to try to understand twitter.

My followers are growing but I find it odd how most of them do not and have not ever interacted with me personally. When I see yet another new follower who doesn’t seem to be the least bit interested in what I tweet about,  I think to myself,  “But WHY?” or sometimes “WHO ARE YOU, and WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

I’m pretty sure that’s not a productive attitude to have towards followers, but there you go.

Desiring a “followback” or to sell or promote something only explains for a small percentage of them. I suspect they may think I’m far more useful or important than I am.

Most perplexing follow this week: a diner restaurant in Michigan, which is some distance away.

I did participate in a great twitter chat concerning disability in film. If you twit and like film, you may be interested in joining next week – Saturday 9pm Eastern standard time, under the hashtag #filmdis.

Writing wise I’ve been working on my presentation for a Sherlockian thing in June, and doing research for a different writing project. I have also written and submitted my review for the absolutely horrid children’s motivational book “Same is Lame.” The book is such a waste of paper I don’t want to devote a blog post on it. Reading long complaints about the weather is actually a better use of your time.

In other news:

My neuroscience course has been postponed by Duke U., and one of the lighter/striker thingies on a burner of my gas stove isn’t lighting,

It’s a wild wild life.