not norman

April 16, 2018
by JeanneLovesBooks

Jeanne Loves Books – April 2018

Not Norman:  A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett

A young boy wants a pet. He wants a pet he can play and snuggle with. When he gets a goldfish in a bowl named Norman he is really disappointed. “All Norman does is swim around and around and around and around…” This is definitely not the pet he wanted.  NOT NORMAN!

Our young guy tries a number of ways to get a different pet. He tries to trade Norman to a friend who has a lot of puppies. He prepares a great sign, “Norman, One Amazing Fish” for show-and -tell at school in hopes that one of his classmates will want him. Nothing works.

In the meantime, Norman starts proving his worth. He is always there and shows some personality. When our young narrator finally makes it to the pet store and checks out all the other options, he decides to keep Norman. The others “all look like good pets, but they are….NOT NORMAN.”

The cover of the book is a good example of the delightful illustrations throughout the book. They are clear, colorful and frequently include easily identifiable emotions. There is great repetition with Not Norman being a frequent refrain. The text is limited but does include words like twitches, gunky, rescue, tuba, Maestro.  There is lots of informal language too, like googly-eyed, goofy, yikes.

This is a sweet story about overcoming snap judgments about something or somebody. It is also an encouraging story about the value of a pet goldfish for those children whose choice of pets is limited because of allergies or other issues.

Fun with Reading

  1. Word or phrase repetitions are always fun – after the second or third repetition you can pause, point and wait for your child to join you in “reading” it
  2. On a number of pages stop and explore the emotions being depicted in the illustrations
  3. Notice the literacy examples in the story: The parents have included a book, Your Fish and You along with Norman in his bowl. Ask why that is a good idea.
  4. Talk about what role pets play in families

February 12, 2018
by JeanneLovesBooks

Jeanne Loves Books – February

Mine!,  by Susie Lee Jin, is a seemingly simple book talking the big concept of sharing.

Sharing can be difficult for preschoolers  – and for the rest of us depending on the occasion and the item to be shared. Years ago, the almost four-year-old son of a friend took off his coat after coming home from preschool and with a very unhappy face asked, “How much longer does this sharing go on?”

In Mine!, two bunnies sledding down a hill find a carrot. The carrot attracts more bunnies, all of whom want the carrot. There is a fun twist at the end with a great opportunity for guessing whose carrot it really is. The story is really told through the illustrations of the bunnies who are the main characters. The illustrations are large and the faces are drawn with lots of emotion. There are really only three different words in the text:  mine!, ours!!, and yours.  The word mine appears 14 times in the text in various font sizes.

Fun With Reading

  • Using a story like Mine! to engage your child in a concept like sharing is a great way to explore it and the accompanying emotions.
  • Use the wonderful illustrations to help your child recognize facial expressions and their meaning
  • Can your child identify the emotions on the faces?
  • What does s/he think of the way the different bunnies claim ownership?
  • Can s/he guess from the big clue who really owns the carrot?
  • Should the one who first had it and lost it get it back?
  • What do they think of the ending?
  • Have they had some hard times sharing? Have you?
  • On the third or fourth mine!, pause and see if your child will “read” the word

If you want to explore this topic further, here are a couple other titles:

Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems and It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni

February 9, 2018
by Shannon

Conversation with Families at The Works Museum

The Works Museum is hosting a conversation with families who have previously visited the museum, and who have a 5 to 12 year-old child/children on the autism spectrum. They’d like to hear about your experience during family visits to the museum, as well as any museum programs your child has participated in. The Works Museum seeks to be more welcoming to learners with autism and their families.

There are a limited number of spots available – you must RSVP to attend. Email by February 12th if you are able to join us.

Supervision will be provided for children ages 6-12 who would like to explore in the museum during the conversation. Please let them know in your RSVP if you would like to take advantage of this offer. Include the number and ages of your children, so staffing can be arranged.

  • When: Saturday, February 17, 9:30 – 11:00 am
  • Where: The Works Museum, 9740 Grand Avenue, Bloomington 55420
  • Conversation will take place in the Group Lobby at the Museum
  • Coffee and pastries will be served

February 5, 2018
by Editorial Team

Writing Workshops

Do you have stories, ideas, and experiences to share? Of course you do! Join Cow Tipping Press for our Spring Creative Writing Workshops (no need to type of write by hand) and craft some works that showcase your unique gifts and voice with the world! By the end, you’ll walk away a published author with a book of your own writing in hand.

Workshops are hosted at Hayden Heights Library at 1456 White Bear Avenue St. Paul

Thursdays February 15-March 8, from 5:45pm to 7:45pm, followed by public reading and book release.

Workshops are free of charge, thanks to the Dakota and Ramsey County Autism Grant!

Register here by February 8!


February 2, 2018
by Shannon
1 Comment

Farewell but not Goodbye

One of the most impactful lessons I learned from my wonderful Early Childhood Family Education teacher was that child development is a series of ebbs and flows, much like the tide. I have hung onto this rhythmic imagery as I have parented my sons. It eases my stress in times when we seem to be going nowhere or even rushing back to developmental places I thought were long behind us.

As with all things with autism, the ebbs and flows analogy applies to my son with autism, but to a much greater degree. Our ebbs are severe, and our flows are giddy and disorienting. Often I find myself standing, fixed, on shifting sand as a bulwark against these swirling developmental forces.

But sometimes with autism we get stuck, or we lose our moorings, or the sand erodes beneath our feet so rapidly that we lose our footing.

Serving as the executive director for CEA has been a privilege and something that anchored me to a community that honors families living with autism. So many times it brought me back to steady footing. I delighted in forging partnerships and programs that would support families like mine. I gained inspiration and fortitude from the stories of other families. And I have drawn strength from those professionals and parents who worked alongside me to fully engage families living with autism in their homes, schools and community.

Finding a community that supports you for who you are isn’t always easy. In CEA, we have found that. I am incredibly grateful to have been part of this organization and to have been entrusted with leading it.

CEA is the bulwark standing against an unpredictable tide. It remains constant as our community and families develop around it. I will continue to tap into its strength and knowledge as my family continues our journey. And I hope to always be connected, firmly, to this inspiring community.

February 2, 2018
by Editorial Team

Work with CEA

Announcement of Position Opening 

Center for Engaging Autism 

Executive Director 

Job Description

The Executive Director of The Center for Engaging Autism is an experienced professional who provides leadership in initiatives that serve young children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. This person is responsible for providing education, for overseeing programs, and for generating financial resources to sustain operations and programs.


  • Bachelor’s or Advanced Degree; experience preferred
  • Knowledge of ASD including current research findings, history, interventions and trends
  • Program development, management and evaluation experience
  • Ability to set and achieve measureable goals
  • Ability to envision ideas for long range outcomes
  • Experience in setting, operating and managing budgets
  • Proven ability to build relationships that are beneficial to the organization
  • Ability to effectively work with staff, board members, committees and volunteers towards common goals
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including public speaking and social media
  • Experience in developing financial resources to sustain project operations


Interested candidates for this part-time position are invited to submit a resumé and letter of interest by March 1, 2018.

Board of Directors
Center for Engaging Autism
PO Box 1344
Minnetonka, Minnesota 55345

February 2, 2018
by Editorial Team
1 Comment

From the Board of Directors

Farewell Notice 

It was with appreciation and regret that the CEA Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Shannon Andreson as our Executive Director this January. Over the past few years many of you have met Shannon at our lectures or at the Ale for Autism event. Others have come to know her through the blogs she posted on this website.

All of us have learned from her insights into parenting a child with autism.

She shared both her knowledge and her strong belief in the potential of our children. Shannon enriched CEA in many other ways. She created and managed the website, and wrote numerous blogs and the newsletter. She also developed and delivered educational presentations for parents and agencies such as the Hennepin County libraries. Through her tireless efforts she created Sensitive Storytimes for libraries and a poetry camp for children with autism. Many of our community lectures were topics that Shannon championed, such as twice exceptional, therapy animals, and poetry writing.

Shannon understood the value of working in collaboration with others in the community. She helped CEA work with police departments, state agencies, schools, provider agencies, libraries and arts groups. The Center for Engaging Autism will miss her friendly smile and her commitment to our families living with autism. We all thank her for her work at CEA.

Board of Directors

Orchestra Hall

January 26, 2018
by Lyndie

Sensory Friendly Concerts: Advocacy and Acceptance through Music

I frequently hear parents say “My kid loves music! What can you do with them?” As a music therapist, I love hearing it. Often times, music is the language that people with autism prefer. Music is so individual, it provides a unique platform for successful experiences regardless of how our bodies and brains communicate. And it is natural to the human experience. Music promotes neurodiversity, this idea that we all fall on a spectrum neurologically. These differences shouldn’t be scrutinized, but celebrated and, most importantly, accommodated.

Sensory Friendly Concerts, like those happening right now at the Minnesota Orchestra, further develop this idea of neurodiversity by encouraging self-advocacy through performance and providing an adapted setting for enjoying quality music. Similar to a sensory friendly theater performance or movie, audience members are not required to follow social norms that accompany a typical community experience. Sensory Friendly Concerts are facilitated by a board certified music therapist to assist with audience participation and interaction. Think of it as a community music therapy experience. Reactions and movement to music are encouraged, and creating an environment that provides a safe space for enjoying music is the priority.

Performances during the concerts are not limited to professional musicians. We also welcome those with sensory sensitivities to share their own musical talents in front of an appreciative audience. We have had phenomenal people share their vocal, string, piano, and some emcee talents with the participants. They are an amazing source of love, energy, and life. And too often they are not provided the resources to be successful in the community. It is our job to recognize and foster that talent, and encourage them as friends, advocates, and artistic beings.

Sensory Friendly Concerts are a way to do all of those things, by making music accessible, ensuring community space that is welcoming, and highlighting the talents and voices of those who are so often unheard.

December 14, 2017
by Shannon
1 Comment

What to Do When You’re Expecting Happy Holidays

The main thing that living with autism has taught me is to manage my expectations. I still stumble on this all the time, but during the holidays this awareness has transformed the season from stressful to festive. In the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share my top tips so you, too, can be a little more merry.

  1. Expect less and enjoy more
    Instead of lining up my holiday to-do’s, dragging my son from one activity to the next, I pick one holiday tradition I really want to share with him. One year it was a visit to Santa, the next was decorating the tree. When you reduce your expectations, it allows you to enjoy what your child is able to do, instead of lamenting what has gone wrong. Choosing one special activity also allows you to funnel all your resources into that event. Things become more manageable, and you find that the joyful memories from that event last through the weeks to come.
  2. Know your child’s limits
    When I want my child to join me in a tradition, I make sure I know what he’s capable of. Our first visit to Santa was not in a busy mall, but at a small neighborhood store. There was no line, little bustle. I also didn’t expect him to sit on Santa’s lap, smile for the camera and rattle off a list of wishes. The setting allowed me to model what I wanted him to do: sit on Santa’s lap, smile at the camera and chat a little. Those two pictures, of me on Santa’s lap grinning, and my son standing next to him with a sweet smile, bring back fond holiday memories.
  3. Prepare family and friends
    Food, gifts, noise and chaos… Sometimes the holidays feel like they were designed to make families living with autism miserable. But thoughtfully preparing your family and friends will make supporting your child easier. Let them know that he will open gifts later and follow up with a thank-you phone call. Warn them that she may not eat the traditional meal. Explain that the bustle of gatherings overwhelms your child.
  4. Plan ahead
    Know what food will be available at gatherings and bring your own food if your child doesn’t like what’s on the menu. Ask the host if there is a quiet space where your child can retreat if things get too overwhelming.
  5. Set up clear expectations
    For almost all community outings, I set up “rules.” We’ve got the grocery store rules, the restaurant rules. You get the idea. The holidays bring additional expectations of behavior. So set those up for your child beforehand. Having a response rehearsed to common questions from relatives will help. And so will a list of how to handle giving and receiving. My little guy loves candy canes, so I often remind him that the rule is to take only one. Of course, social stories about all the traditions, like gift giving, help a lot. List and post your rules for easy reference, read social stories many times, and give your child a chance to rehearse these scripts.
  6. Maintain that high
    You’ve arrived at your holiday event prepared. Your child is doing great, and you are delighting in their success. Now is the time to leave. You may want to stay and family and friends may be urging you to, but leaving on a high note will preserve those memories as joyful ones. Your child will feel successful and want to do it again next year.
  7. Bring it in-house
    My son will tolerate a lot more hustle and bustle if he’s in familiar surroundings. So we host a lot of holiday gatherings, spaced out over the months. This way we get to see everyone who is important to us, my son is able to participate fully, and I get time to clean up and prepare for the next event. Consider adding a new tradition around your child’s interests. My son loves to cook, so we host an annual cookie baking party. Festive and fun, it takes the social pressure off because he is doing a familiar activity while interacting with others.

With these tips, I hope you find ways to make the holidays magical and uniquely suited to your family.

Read all our holiday posts here >>

December books

December 14, 2017
by JeanneLovesBooks

Jeanne Loves Books – December

A Bear’s Year by Kathy Duval and Gerry Turley is a book about seasons and about a mother teaching her young about their world. It is also a book about hibernation without ever mentioning the word.

It is not a holiday book, but it is a wonderful seasonal book. It starts with winter, and we see the big mother bear asleep in her den with a window out to a world where snow is falling.

The text is large, spare and almost lyrical in its rhyme. The first page of the story begins,

Winter Bear 

drifts into sleep,

Earth’s snowflake blanket

soft and deep.

The illustrations are lovely and perfectly compliment the warmth of the story. They are large, but not busy. They also reflect the text. So when a “wolf wails a lullaby,” we can find a howling wolf in the illustration. This is so helpful when engaging a child in a story because you can then look together to find the wolf, talk about it and the child will have a wonderful image of a “howling wolf.” There is another wonderful illustration of a night sky with Northern Lights to illustrate “Northern Lights paint the sky.”

There is some very rich language in this book with limited text. In addition to Northern Lights, look for wail, cozy, lair, grubs, swarm, den, doze, scarce, and nestled. For nestled and cuddled, a demonstration is always wonderful!

Fun with Reading

  • Be sure to highlight and talk about words that are new for your child. Most children learn a significant part of their vocabulary from books.
  • Talk about what season we are having here in Minnesota.  How is our winter the same or different from what we see in the book?
  • Have your child nestle in close to you when reading and give a cuddle each time you reread the story.