Friday, April 23, 2010

Robert Sears' The Autism Book

I wholeheartedly and without reservation DO NOT RECOMMEND Robert Sears' The Autism Book. As a parent of a child with autism, I found almost nothing about this book valuable and, in fact, think that it contains a great deal of dangerous and misleading information.

There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to autism. This book, which is subtitled, "What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention" is squarely in the biomedical, "if you spend enough time and money, your child can recover from autism (except for a few of those social skills, stimming, and obsessiveness traits)."

Even the parts of this book that I agree with in terms of early intervention and therapies, I had a hard time taking seriously coming from Dr. Sears, who ended many of his sections with, "For more information go to the Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) website or talk to a TACA mom," and who lists Jenny McCarthy's book in his recommended reading section.

Sears heartily recommends, among other things, supplements. At one point he lays out a sample supplement schedule in which are included twenty-seven daily doses of supplements, plus an-every-three nights injection.

He has a section on the controversial practice of chelation (removing heavy metals from the body) in which he admits that "Metals that had been sitting (somewhat harmlessly) in the body fat may resettle in the brain [during chelation]." He goes on to dismiss this as "just a theoretical concern." And that's just one of my objections to this section. I don't know a whole lot about chelation, but I know for a fact that I would never subject my child to it.

What about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, in which children spend an hour a day in an HBOT chamber five days a week for eight weeks? In a box he titles "Start Saving Your Money," he says, "I believe that this is probably the most worthwhile multithousand-dollar therapy that you can spend your money on." I think I'll save my money for something else, thank you very much.

So vaccines. Sears has written a whole other book on vaccines, but here is what he has to say about vaccinating children with autism: "I generally recommend that any child diagnosed with autism not receive any more vaccines." This, despite the fact that studies have shown over and over that there is NO credible link between vaccines and autism.

I dog-eared pages in the book on which I found information that alarmed or offended me, or that I feel to be patently misleading or contradictory, with the intention of sharing some of that information with you. But honestly, I don't have the space in this review to do that (there are a lot of dog ears in my book), nor do I have the energy. This book mostly just depressed me.

There are a lot of parents out there who are devastated by the possibility of autism, and while I admit that it can be scary and heartbreaking, I don't believe that spending tens of thousands of dollars and making your child spend every hour of his or her day in therapy and taking vast amounts of supplements is the answer. Honestly, it sounds miserable to me. Hanging out with my autistic kid and organically teaching him to learn and be a good guy sounds like a lot more fun. And worthwhile.

I wish that there were a catch-all autism book with good, solid, specific information. However, this isn't it. I believe that this book will be latched on to by autism parents searching for a miracle and for whom "recovery" seems plausible and desirable. I wish them well, but I don't think the words in this book are much good for anybody.

I repeat: I wholeheartedly and without reservation do not recommend this book.

Honesty Clause: I was sent a review copy of this book at no charge.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Endless Ocean Blue World

Never in a million years would I have chosen Endless Ocean Blue World off of the shelf. After playing it on our Wii for a few weeks now, however, it is now one of my family's favorites.

There are a lot of things that I love about this game, and I'll get to that, but first let me tell you a little bit about the game. Your role in the game is as a deep-sea diver. Your character goes on dives, expeditions, and treasure hunts. You are trying to solve a mystery and discover clues along the way as you participate in smaller quests.

Basically that's it. You swim around the ocean and do things. If you're looking for a fast-paced game, this is not the game for you. But let me tell you why it might just be for you.

The thing I love the absolute most about this game is that is entirely nonviolent. There is tension and drama in the game in the form of dangerous sea creatures, but there is no shooting, no hitting, nothing.

If you are too near a dangerous shark, you use your Pulsar tool to "calm" him. If you don't use the Pulsar tool fast enough, you might get swatted by the shark's tail and use up too much of your oxygen and have to return to the surface. Coming from a family where my kids will imitate anything violent, this is such a welcome change. I have found nothing objectionable for my kids to emulate in this game. Nothing.

The thing I love the second most is that is unobtrusively educational. When you're swimming around, your character identifies different fish. My kids have learned so much about different kinds of fish. It is amazing. Not only that, but they are learning about different bodies of water. Just this afternoon, my 8-year-old was telling me all about the Red Sea. This game has sparked in them an interest in sea life and water that I am blown away by.

Furthermore, because it is difficult to figure out where you are going underwater, you are forced to use a map to navigate. My kids are learning the directions, and not just the easy ones either. They are learning about northeast and southwest too.

Honestly, I've just scratched the surface of the game in this review. Players get to stock an aquarium, play with dolphins, and salvage treasure. There is a feature in which you can visit other Endless Ocean Blue World player's oceans. We don't know anyone else who has the game though, so we haven't tried out that feature yet.

There are a few things about the game that aren't great. First of all, because it is a little slow-moving, it will not necessarily hold everyone's interest. Some of the quests and riddles are complicated and hard to figure out and complete, which makes it challenging and fun, but can also make it frustrating. My 8 1/2-year-old plays the game, but I don't think a younger child could play it. However, even though he can't figure everything out, it is still his favorite game.

My next quibble is minor, but crucial in my household. All of the game's dialogue is written out on the screen, but not spoken, which makes it difficult for my non-reader to follow along when he's watching his big brother play.

Also kind of annoying is that you swim by pointing the Wii remote at the screen and pushing a button. It's exhausting to have to hold your arm up all the time. (Okay, I'm kidding. Mostly.)

All put together, I give Endless Ocean Blue World a hearty thumbs up. (Which is how you have to communicate underwater, because you can't talk.)

Also, thanks to Nintendo for sending the most awesome stuffed animal ever in the box with the game.

Honesty Clause: I received a copy of this game to review at no charge as part of my role as a Nintendo Brand Enthusiast. It sells for $29.99. I was also sent an awesome stuffed dolphin as well, which lists for $49.99, but sells for less than $25 at Amazon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fast Food Nation

Stimey is watching Fast Food Nation. Considering how broad the original book is, this was a pretty good (and distressing) movie based on Eric Schlosser's incredible nonfiction book of the same name. But if you really want to learn some horrifying things about the fast food/beef industry, definitely read the book.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Stimey is watching 2012. (I know. It's embarrassing.) This is possibly the most cliched movie I've ever seen. And it was incredibly long.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wii & Wii Fit Plus Winner!

As much as I wanted to give the Wii and Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board to each and every one of you who commented, only one of you could win. And that winner is...

...commenter number 24: Morninglight Mama! In her comment, she says, "This has been on my wish list for a long while. :) (My belly hopes so, too...)"

Tell your belly to get ready to work, Morninglight Mama! Congratulations!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon Video Game

No one in my family has seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon (long story, including intense fear of movie theaters on the part of some of the junior members of Team Stimey), but we were thrilled to try out the new How to Train Your Dragon video game for the Wii.

This game is available for several platforms, including the Wii, Xbox, Playstation 3, and Nintendo DS.

The game is rated E 10+, so I promptly handed it over to my 8-year-old, Sam, who was delighted.

The game features both a story mode for one player and an arcade mode for two players. Sam started out in story mode, which he liked a lot. In story mode your character wanders around and interacts with his environment, going on adventures and doing battle. It was similar to some of the adventure games my husband plays, but waaaaaay more age appropriate. And easier.

I liked that when the characters speak, they do so both in audible words and subtitles, making it easy for readers and non-readers (such as a four-year-old observer) to keep up. Sam liked that you can change the appearance of the dragons.

Arcade mode was fun because Sam and my almost seven-year-old could play together. In arcade mode, near as I can tell, the dragons fight each other with their tails, fire-breathing, etc. Like Mortal Kombat, only cuter.

I have to say that I prefer games that let more than two players play at once (Kung Fu Panda and Super Mario Bros. Wii, for example). It's tough to divide up my kids' limited video game playing time when they can't all play at once.

Because Sam is the one who played the game, I decided to do a little interview with him about what he liked and didn't like about the game. I asked what his favorite part of the game is and he said, "That you can beat dragons up and get trophies." His least favorite? "How hard the tournament matches are."

He told me that it was "medium" to learn (as opposed to hard or easy), and that he thought kids as young as six could play because his six-year-old brother "beat me up a couple of times." He told me that he preferred to play alone in story mode, however, because "You can fight tournament matches. If it's arcade mode, you can only fight each other. In story mode you do quests and stuff."

He did rank this game below his two other current favorite games, Endless Ocean: Blue World and Super Mario Galaxy.

And then he pretended to fall asleep. Interview over.

My opinion? As far as family-friendly video games go, this is a pretty good one. If you think your child will easily get bored of dragon matches, it might not be the game for you. It's simple, but not terribly fast moving (which has both advantages and disadvantages). However, if your kid is thrilled with the Dragon movie, this might just be a no-brainer gift.

Honesty Clause: We were given a Wii and Xbox version of this video game for review purposes. List price for the game is $49.99. Of the other video games mentioned, I (or a family member) purchased all of them, except Endless Ocean: Blue World, for which a review is upcoming.