Archive for April, 2009

Books on Emotions for Children with Autism

April 25, 2009

Children with autism are often very poor at identifying, understanding, and regulating emotions.  They are usually especially deficient in empathizing, or understanding that other people have emotions.  It’s an area that doesn’t get enough attention.  I’ve been meaning to post some of these on my website,, but for now I’ll list them here in this blog along with my ratings.  I’ve listed the levels as beginner, intermediate, and advanced just for simplicity.  For kids who can’t read you can still read the books to them and break them down into simple terms.  These books are great for neurotypical kids as well, of course. 

These books on emotions are different than ones on social stories or social skills.  There are a lot of great books on learning to share, having good manners, and being safe and careful.  Those are all necessary and great but books on emotions take it a step further.  “When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry,” by Molly Bang is a great example that shows a girl getting mad and then getting over it.  Another great book is “Proud of Our Feelings” by Lindsay Leghorn, which shows each child with a different feeling and asks the reader, “When do you feel _____?” 

For teaching children about emotions, when in doubt, I advocate the philosophy of John Gottman in “Raising the Emotionally Intelligent Child.”  The main idea of the book is that it’s best to validate a child’s emotions by telling him or her, “It’s ok to be upset.  I know you’re upset.  Everybody gets upset sometimes,” then offer a strategy, rather than to just say, “Don’t be upset.”  





How are You Peeling?

Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

Fruits and vegetables are made to look like facial


The Feelings Book

Todd Parr

Colorful, simple concepts on emotions.


When Sophie Gets Angry, Really Really Angry

Molly Bang

Sophie gets angry, then cools down.


If You’re Angry and You Know It

Cecily Kaiser

Strategies for what do do when you get angry


On Monday When It Rained

Cherryl Kachenmeister

A boy experiences emotions, the reader guesses which ones.


When Lizzie was Afraid of Trying New Things

Inger Maier

Lizzie is afraid, tries things, then gains confidence


Proud of Our Feelings

Lindsay Leghorn

Each child has a different feeling


Having a Conversation/Feeling Happy, etc.



Customized books for kids with autism


When I’m Feeling Scared

Trace Moroney

A rabbit feels scared in different situations


When I’m Feeling Sad

Trace Moroney

A rabbit feels sad in different situations


I’m So Mad!

Robie H. Harris

Girl goes shopping with Mommy, is mad, then happy.


Sometimes Bad Things Happen

Ellen Jackson

Bad things happen, you can do things to feel better


Timothy Tugbottom Says No!

Anne Tyler

He says no, then tries things and likes them


The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad

Rob Goldblatt

A boy realizes the same things that make him sad also make
him happy.


When I Feel Angry

Cornelia Maude Spelman

Rabbit feels angry and uses strategies to cope


When I Feel Scared

Cornelia Maude Spelman

Bear feels scared and uses strategies


When My Worries Get too Big

Kari Dunn Buron

Strategies for anxiety


What to Do When You Worry Too Much

Dawn Huebner

In-depth explanation of worrying and what to do about it


Andy and His Yellow Frisbee

Mary Thompson

A girl has a brother with autism


The Bear Who Lost His Sleep

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro

Story about worrying too much


The Penguin Who Lost Her Cool

Marla Sobel

Story about controlling anger


Stop Picking on Me

Pat Thomas

Explanation of bullying


I’m Scared

Elizabeth Crary

Several situations about being afraid and what to do


I’m Frustrated

Elizabeth Crary

Several situations about being frustrated and what to do




Dhani Tackles the Globe

April 25, 2009

“Dhani Tackles the Globe” is a TV show on the Travel Channel in which Dhani Jones, an NFL player, plays the sports of different countries to which he travels.  I really like the show because it shows an American who plays a traditionally American sport playing completely different sports, many of which neither he nor many other Americans have even heard of.  One of the great things about it is that Dhani, a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, has a respect for other cultures and the sports they play. 

Many Americans, especially members of the sports media, look down on non-American sports and ridicule them.  Not just the obscure, seemingly strange sports, but even soccer, the most popular sport in the world.  In fact, you can’t watch ESPN doing a soccer highlight without seeing the anchor making fun of the sport – it’s almost as if it’s a requirement.  They should respect the sport and the passion that millions of fans over the world have for it.  It just makes ESPN and other sports media outlets look arrogant and shortsighted. 

When the Olympics roll around, or in fact when any sport other than football, baseball, basketball, or golf is mentioned, the U.S. sports media feels obligated to either make fun of it, state how much no one cares about it, or say how much they hate it, as if they are afraid of what they are not familiar with.  This is even true for relatively mainstream sports such as soccer, tennis, hockey, boxing, bike racing, or swimming. 

Forget about getting an American sports media person to respect something more non-American such as the sports featured on the show: Muay Thai boxing (Thailand), schwingen (Switzerland), rugby (England), dragon boat racing (Singapore), hurling (Ireland), jai alai (Spain), Surf Life Saving (Australia), kickboxing (Cambodia), sailing (New Zealand), and Sambo fighting (Russia). 

But back to the show.  Jones and the show’s producers do a great job of mixing in sports, cuisine, social life, and scenery.  A couple of minor issues – Jones sometimes seems a little awkward as he forces too many jokes, and sometimes he does a little bit of friendly trash talking which doesn’t always get understood by the people in foreign countries.  I have another criticism of the show — that South America isn’t represented, and the bigger oversight is that Jones did not travel to Africa, especially since he is African-American.  But these are relatively minor complaints.  For the most part, Jones is friendly, good-humored, and most importantly, respects the sports and games they play in other countries and their cultures.  It’s good to see that from a multi-millionaire American athlete.

In Switzerland, Jones did schwingen, or Swiss folk wrestling. Something notable about Switzerland was that Dhani seemed to get a slightly cold reception by many of the people, first by the competitors and later by the crowd.  As for how he did in the sports, he sometimes looked a little lost out there, but I applaud him for taking the risk of trying something new.  He got beaten badly a few times in Swiss folk wrestling.  I missed the one on Thai boxing.  He did relatively well in rugby as you would expect, though he only got to play for a few minutes. He didn’t do very well in dragon boat racing, played passably well in hurling for a beginner, and didn’t fare much better in jai alai.

The show is a good way to get to know other countries a little bit.  It’s a different spin on the usual travel shows.  Jones also spends some time learning some of the jobs people do in other countries as well as sampling native cuisines and participating in some of the recreational activities of these countries.  He sheared sheep in Ireland, milked cows in Switzerland, and rode (and fell off a) horse in England.  You also get to see some of the scenery in places like Switzerland, which is amazing.

You have to respect Jones for what he’s doing, going outside of his specialty in a specialized world.  Most people are specialists in one or two areas, so when someone comes along who is flexible, adaptable, and versatile, people don’t know what to make of it.  They can’t imagine people doing something other than what they do all day, year after year.  

If people call themselves true sports fans, they should not mock and disrespect anything that isn’t considered a major American sport.  You may not be that interested in different sports or understand anything other than football, basketball, and baseball, but if you consider yourself a sports fan then at least respect other sports.  (This is directed at every major sportscaster or sportswriter in America).  A better attitude would also go a long way toward dispelling the notion that Americans only care about the U.S. and don’t care about or understand other cultures.  As a multi-cultural nation of immigrants, we should respect the sports and the cultures of other countries.  My favorite sports to watch are football and basketball, but I try not to make fun of other sports just because I don’t know them as well. 

Dhani has also been active in volunteering and charity work.  From the show’s website: “Dhani has received accolades for his charity work for former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Change Project and the United Nations’ World Food Program. He also represented the New York Giants at a press conference for the “Gift of New York,” a September 11 philanthropy organization designed to provide victims’ families with free access to New York’s theatrical, artistic, cultural, sports and live entertainment venues.”  

More pro athletes should take advantage of the money they have and see the world in their off seasons.

Pizza Zero is Number One

April 25, 2009

Pizza Zero in Bethesda has to be one of the best deals in town.  A small restaurant just off Restaurant Row (, they specialize in wood-grilled pizzas.  The pizzas are a decent size – I’d say about a little more than a foot in diameter – enough for a filling meal.  The pizzas have a great taste from the wood-burning oven and they have 32 different types of pizzas, or you can get one to order. 

They have all the usual toppings plus some more unique ones:  Argentine sausage, arugula, chimichurri sauce, heart of palm, brie, goat cheese, manchego, mascarpone, Spanish boquerones, and Spanish sausage.  The owners are Argentinean and the restaurant makes really good empanadas.  The lunch menu is a really great deal with the average cost of a pizza at $6.50, and some as low as $5.50.  Empanadas (Beef, Chicken, Caprese, Spinach/Mozzarella, Corn) are very tasty and only $3.00.  They have a large screen TV that usually has sports on and there’s also a cool little bar with flat screen TVs to watch games.  It’s also kid-friendly with a few large photos of animals.  

Pizza Zero is just off the main area where most of the foot traffic is on Bethesda Avenue, one block west of the Apple Store.  It’s on Bethesda Avenue across from the Mercedes dealership and behind Giant.  You can park in the garage at the corner of Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road.  The taste of the pizzas from the wood-burning oven is well worth it.

What’s in my Ipod?

April 25, 2009

First, I’m not egotistical enough to think that anybody cares what songs are in my Ipod.  But I figure it’s easy material to write for my blog, which I partly use to drive traffic to my websites (,, and  Second, I don’t actually have any songs in my Ipod yet – I still have the CDs I made a few years ago, and I carry around a portable CD player when I run.  (I might as well have a portable 8-track player). I decided to put songs on it that would inspire me while I run.  It’s a pretty good cross-section of songs, from oldies to soft rock to classic rock to alternative to heavy metal to rap.  There are a lot of my favorite groups that aren’t represented but I’ll list a few of them at the end. But anyway, here is the list. 

·      Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby

·      Boston – A Man I’ll Never Be

·      Bruce Springsteen – The River

·      Cat Stevens – Wild World

·      Cat Stevens – Hard Headed Woman*

·      Crosby Stills and Nash – Southern Cross*

·      Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

·      Cult – Fire Woman

·      Cure – Elise

·      Dido – White Flag

·      Disturbed – Down with the Sickness

·      Eric B. and Rakim – Paid in Full

·      Goo Goo Dolls – Iris

·      Goo Goo Dolls – Slide

·      Guns and Roses – November Rain

·      Courtney Love – Malibu

·      James Taylor – Fire and Rain

·      James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend

·      Journey – Only the Young

·      Journey – Separate Ways

·      Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird

·      Marvin Gaye – What’s Goin’ On

·      Megadeth – Symphony of Destruction

·      Morrissey – How Soon is Now?

·      Smiths – Every Day is Like Sunday

·      P.M. Dawn – Set Adrift on Memory Bliss

·      Public Enemy – Can’t Truss It

·      Public Enemy – Fight the Power*

·      Rod Stewart – Mandolin Wind

·      Sam Cooke — You Send Me*

·      Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water

·      Soundgarden – Outshined

·      Staind – So Far Away*

·      Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me

·      U2 – Bad

·      U2 – Until the End of the World

·      U2 – Unforgettable Fire*

·      U2 – Zooropa

·      Van Halen – Unchained*

·      Van Halen – Right Here Right Now*

·      White Zombie – Thunder Kiss ‘65

·      White Zombie – More Human than Human

These aren’t my favorite songs of all time or my favorite groups of all time (although there would be a lot of overlap) – just those that are on my three mix CDs.  There are a lot of great bands that aren’t represented because I had been listening to them so much that I had to put other ones on.  Some of my other favorites – in many cases I like these bands better than the ones on the list – are the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Rush, the Cars, the Police, REM, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Bob Marley, and probably a ton that I’m forgetting. 

Then of course there are Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, but I’m not as high on them as most people are, though of course there are individual songs by them that would blow away some of the songs on this list.  There are also a couple of one-hit wonders on this list, and some songs that are far from the best by that particular group.  Then there are groups that I liked a lot growing up (i.e, Styx), but not so much now.  All in all, though, it’s a pretty good list.  I put a star next to ones that are particularly inspiring.  

Best Female Names

April 25, 2009

My top 10 favorite names for women.  Many of them end in “ie” because they are fun sounding. 

1.     Katie (also Caitlin, Katy or Kate)

2.     Jennifer (also Jenny)

3.     Amy

4.     Susan (or Susie)

5.     Heather

6.     Sara

7.     Patricia (or Tricia but not Pat or Patty)

8.     Valerie

9.     Annie

10.  Stephanie

100 Best Movies

April 12, 2009

Here’s a list of my 100 favorite movies.  This isn’t a list of the 100 greatest movies of all-time, just my 100 best of all-time.  I include a few old movies – keep in mind that I’m only old enough to remember movies from the mid-70s on, plus older ones that I’ve seen on TV.

The list is kind of random – I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, I don’t like horror movies or mafia movies, and I do like action movies even though they’re not always the best reviewed.  I include action, drama, comedy, sports, documentaries, and a little bit of romance.   So here are my top 100 movies of all-time.

1.       Bourne Identity (and Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum)

2.     Return of the King (and the Two Towers and the Fellowship of the Ring)

3.       It’s a Wonderful Life

4.       Stripes

5.       Terminator (and Terminator II)

6.       Raiders of the Lost Ark

7.       Rocky (and Rocky II)

8.       The Fugitive

9.       Memento

10.     Point Break

11.     The Wizard of Oz

12.     Back to the Future

13.     Airplane

14.     Slap Shot

15.     Risky Business

16.     Animal House

17.     Braveheart

18.     Forrest Gump

19.     The Graduate

20.     Stir Crazy

21.     The Game

22.     The Vikings

23.     Star Wars (and the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)

24.     Silver Streak

25.     Hoop Dreams

26.     The Firm

27.     Planet of the Apes

28.     Fast Times at Ridgemont High

29.     Surfwise

30.     The Da Vinci Code

31.     An Inconvenient Truth

32.     Vision Quest

33.     Swingers

34.     Kramer vs. Kramer

35.     First Blood

36.     Bad News Bears

37.     Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

38.     Patriot Games

39.     Tequila Sunrise

40.     Borat

41.     Kurt and Courtney

42.     Sicko

43.     The Dirty Dozen

44.     When We Were Kings

45.     Die Hard

46.     E.T.

47.     Caddyshack

48.     Clear and Present Danger

49.     Back to School

50.     Jagged Edge

51.     Ghostbusters

52.     Basic Instinct

53.     King Kong (1933)

54.     A Beautiful Mind

55.     Trading Places

56.     Lethal Weapon

57.     Enemy of the State

58.     Naked Gun

59.     When Harry Met Sally

60.     Minority Report

61.     Elling

62.     The Pelican Brief

63.     New Jack City

64.     The Lion King

65.     Awakenings

66.     Wall Street

67.     No Way Out

68.     Good Will Hunting

69.     Back to the Future III

70.     Sneakers

71.     Casino Royale

72.     Splash

73.     Dead Poets Society

74.     Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

75.     Speed

76.     Jaws

77.     Rain Man

78.     True Lies

79.     War of the Worlds

80.     Rocky III

81.     Close Encounters of the Third Kind

82.     Miracle

83.     Octopussy

84.     U.S. Marshals

85.     Platoon

86.     Paycheck

87.     Time Bandits

88.     John Q.

89.     Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

90.     Hangover

91.     Wedding Crashers

92.     Sixth Sense

93.     Sex, Lies, and Videotape

94.     Déjà vu

95.     Breakfast Club

96.     Iron Man

97.     Jackass

98.     Stand By Me

99.     Office Space

100.   Spy Game

Honorable Mention:  Coming to America, This is Spinal Tap, Shawshank Redemption, Total Recall, Ocean’s Eleven.

Rewarding AND Fun

April 4, 2009

I was going to wait until I start my autism blog for this, but this is as good a place as any for me to address something here – and it is about a misconception about what I do for a living.  I provide therapeutic services to children and adults with autism in the areas of sports and exercise, social skills, and academics.  It’s not that people always misunderstand what I do, but they often have some preconceived notions about it. 

The reactions I get are sometimes very positive – some people really appreciate what I do and find it very interesting.  For every time that I have received that reaction, though, there have been many times that people have had reactions that fall into one of the categories below.  Surprisingly, it’s often women who have these reactions – sometimes on a first date or upon an initial conversation that starts with “What do you do?” Then after I answer, the follow up response is something like: 

“Oh, that must be so hard.”  They say this with a really pained expression on their face.  (Remember those commercials a few years ago – the Bitter Beer Face?)  They say it as if to say, “Wow, I would never be able to do that, and I would never want to do that.  How unfun and boring.”  Their body language gives away the fact that the last thing they would want to do is work with kids on the autism spectrum.  I try to explain that it is hard sometimes but it’s also a lot of fun. 

Kids with autism are like neurotypical kids except that they have different skills and abilities.  They are just more extreme.  To put it simply, if you don’t like children with autism, then you don’t like children.  And I’m surprised at the number of women in the Washington area who don’t like children.  Your job, whether it is being a lawyer, a pharmaceutical sales representative, or a consultant, would be unfun and boring to me.  While you’re watching the clock, I’m in the flow and time is flying.  So have fun with your spreadsheet. 

(I don’t mean to imply that career oriented women aren’t good with children.  You don’t have to be a teacher, a pediatric nurse, or a volunteer to be good with kids.  And people need to make money, and careers should be important.  But if you think that your career is more important than anything else, and you don’t value the idea of having any experience with kids, that’s a little extreme.)

There is also an attitude that people have about children and adults with disabilities that they are to be felt sorry for.  While this may be a normal initial reaction, once you get over it, you can’t feel sorry for the kids too much because if you do then you’ll spoil them and let them get away with just about anything. 

“Wow…what you do is really great.  That must be really…rewarding.”  However, they say this with a hushed tone, and look at you as if you are from another planet.  How could someone want to do something like that?” I usually follow this one up with, “Yes, but it’s also a lot of fun.”  One time, I actually had someone reply back to me, “No, you mean rewarding, but not fun.”  I responded back, “No, I mean fun. 

The tone with which they say, “That must be rewarding,” again, seems to imply, “Wow, that must be so tough.”  “Rewarding” happens when you help a charity when you don’t really want to, but you make a sacrifice in order to achieve some good.  Like serving food to the homeless.  For me, that would be boring and tedious, though certainly honorable.  What I’m doing isn’t unselfish – it’s selfish – because what I do is highly enjoyable.  

“Oh, you’re a do-gooder.”  Usually they just think this instead of say it outright, but recently someone I met said that exact sentence to me, in a condescending tone.  She followed it up with, “I work in the hotel industry.  I get people drunk for a living.”  The implication seemed to be, “Oh, you’re a goody two-shoes.  I like to party and have fun.”  Now you might say that was just being self-deprecating and was actually putting what I do on a pedestal.  But no, in this case it was condescending. I agree that partying is fun.  I did it from the time I was in college through my early 30s.  Is that not enough?  I partied with the best of them and had a lot of fun.  But you can only do so much of that. 

Playing sports is also fun.  Catching a touchdown pass in a coed football game, hitting a backhand winner in tennis, scoring a goal in soccer, or throwing a long pass in ultimate Frisbee are all fun.  

Going to a great concert is fun.  So is seeing your favorite team win a big game.  Traveling to new places is fun.  Being at a party when things are rolling is fun.  Seeing a great movie is fun.  

And teaching kids is also fun.  If you can’t appreciate teaching a child to learn to read, converse, do math, play sports for the first time, develop a sense of humor, learn to make friends, and make progress in all these areas, all the while improving behaviors, then I feel sorry for you.  If you think that working with the coolest kids in the world isn’t fun, then what kind of a parent will you be?  These kids are miracles and miracles are happening, although slowly.  

It’s like trying to explain music to someone who doesn’t get it.  If you like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” or any number of inspiring songs, and you try to explain that to someone and they don’t get it, then, well, they just don’t get it.  So if you don’t like kids, then you don’t like kids.  Just admit it.      

Of course, many people say these things with the best of intentions and really do admire this type of work, but many women have a high regard for men who work in more traditional roles such as lawyers or salesmen.  I’m not looking for admiration – I just don’t want someone to look at what I do as a negative.  You don’t have to love my job, but don’t hate it.  

My point is that this work is not only rewarding, but it is also fun.  In his book, “Authentic Happiness,” psychologist Martin Seligman says that using your strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness is great.  Doing all of that while you’re having fun is the best of both worlds.  So doing kind and fun actions creates a lot more satisfaction than doing things that are only kind, or things that are only fun.  

Or you can sit in your office and do neither.