Moving swiftly on

I’ve never been very good at psychobabble but many of us have moved ahead of the guidance in books such as How’s does your Engine Run by the Alert programme and The Incredible 5 point scale as our children grow older.  It’s not that we don’t use them any more, it’s more that there are new and different challenges to help them overcome, a variation on a theme.

First up I’ve been reading Understanding Myself, A kid’s guide to intense emotions and strong feelings by Mary C Lamia.  This is great for young people and around here it helps reinforce the use of language to label and understand the emotions that bubble up along with the hormone surges.  The content may need to be adapted to grasp some of the concepts but overall this is a great ‘next step.’

For my children I’ve not read the whole thing to them nor expected them to read it themselves since this would not be a preferred topic, however, tackling one particular emotion at a time makes the pill more palatable.

We’re also dealing with more grown up issues that some people encounter as their world view expands.  In this realm I’ve found Don’t  Panic by Reid Wilson extremely helpful.  For me the counter intuitive and obtuse approach is difficult to stomach, but guess what, it’s a perfect match for logical thinkers who don’t seem to experience the same struggle.  This is written for an adult reader but the underlying concepts can be adapted to better meet the complex needs of younger people.  I particularly like the ‘don’t fight it off’ approach as we already know from personal experience that that’s an approach which merely feeds the fear.,TopRight,35,-73_OU15_SS75_.jpg

In addition, Fully Present by Susan L Smalley and Diana Winston helps provide a more rounded approach to who we are and accepting our foibles in the big bad world.  I’ll let you know when I’ve finished.

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New Year’s Resolution diet – a book review

Dietary Interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Why They Work When They Do, Why They Don’t When They Don’t.

By Kenneth J. Aitken,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU02_.jpg

Available from JKP and Amazon.

There is a great deal to praise about this book: the format, the style where science is both readable and comprehensible, the facts, the theories and claims, and a hefty dose of reality.

The author makes it clear from the beginning that his book not a weight loss book nor does it tackle the behavioral issues in food avoidance.  The fact that he guides the reader to Ernsperger and Stegen-Hanson [Just Take a Bite] assures me that knows what he’s talking about.

What I found most alarming was the startling information about how very few studies there have been about dietary interventions and even more shockingly, how small the sample populations were – just 237 candidates for the CF-GF diet – and how many people do you know who have adopted this diet?  Furthermore and more worryingly, the candidates are self reporting their results, or rather to be more accurate, their parents are reporting the results.

At the beginning of 2011 many people will be considering dietary interventions for their autistic children, in which case, this book is a must read.

It has been my opinion for quite some while that since so many of our children have appalling diets that just about any addition to their limited quota must have a beneficial effect.  I used to envy other parents embarking upon some new miracle diet with their children while we pushed a Goldfish cracker around the plate and washed it down with his second food, milk, with the hope that at some time during the next 24 hours we’d manage to persuade him to eat dessert, maybe a single raisin, his third ‘food.’  But of course that was a long time ago.

I would love to claim sole credit for my desensitization and multiple exposure plan of intervention, but unfortunately there are many other reasons for his improvement: therapists, teachers, aides, life, growth and the passage of time.

You can also read a very insightful interview with the author at JKP blog where I’ll share one of his best quotes:-

“Personally I don’t believe we should be waiting on the Holy Grail of a wonder treatment for everyone with ASD, however appealing this may seem to some. Some people with ASD symptomology neither need treatment nor want it.”

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My Parent has an Autism Spectrum Disorder A Workbook for Children and Teens Barbara R. Lester

A Book Review

This is a great book for anyone starting a journey of discovery following a diagnoses of autism.  It may seem curious at first to know that an adult, and in this case a parent, has been diagnosed with autism, but it is becoming far more commonplace than we might ever have imagined a few years ago, which makes this book especially timely.

Written with teenagers and young people in mind, Barbara writes with a casual, warm and approachable style which avoids being patronizing.  When she uses a term which may be unfamiliar to her audience, she also includes a simple definition of the word which greatly helps the flow and understanding of the reader.

The book is divided into chapters covering the primary issues which will be of interest and importance to any young person trying to understand their parent.  She writes sympathetically to both parent and child discussing many of the common concerns and worries of young people to aid understanding and empathy.

I particularly liked the style of worksheets in that they are brief and on point.  Also the idea that both parent and child work on the same questions and issues should be illuminating for both parties.

Barbara illustrates the text with examples of her own experiences with her ASD father which helps clarify the condition and provides ample proof that she has lived through, survived and thrived what many others are also experiencing.

My only issue with this book is the usual one:- how to reach the people who most need it?  In this particular instance, that may prove to be a diplomatic nightmare.

The books ends with a brief discussion about the stigma associated with autism but the finale, for me at least, was a worksheet where both parent and child can list their strengths – although there should be an extra blank page to allow for a run on : )

You can check out Barbara R Lester here.

Available from JKP.

I’m just about to try out one of her apps from itunes on depression since it’s a subject I know nothing about and have two candidates in different generations to practice upon.

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Happy Families A Parents’ Guide to the Non-Violent Resistance Approach – book review

(published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 14th May 2010, ISBN: 978-1-84905-084-5, ?9.99) authors, Carmelite Avraham-Krehwinkel and David Aldridge

My initial issue with this book was with the question – ‘who is it written for?’  The idea that any family could be in such dire straits  was one thing, but a book to address their situation seemed a bit late in the day.  My thoughts were, ‘if things are that bad, no book is going to help.’  So I jumped out of my comfortable holier-than-thou slippers and dived into someone else’s.  What if we hadn’t enjoyed the services and supports that we have?  What if that buffer zone didn’t exist?  What if my children were different children?  Children are all on some kind of spectrum, and most families have issues from one time to another.  Maybe it’s because our family has middle of the road autism, twice, that our choices were limited by the severity of our situation.  Even so, I can remember numerous occasions where I’ve let things slide, some issue or other I’ve dismissed, hoping it would go away if I ignored it for long enough.  Usually it was via someone else’s instigation or some other light-bulb moment, which would spur me into action, usually desperation.  But what if…

If things were different from how they are, what would I have done?  Then, this book might help.  How?  Firstly because it is brief.  If you’re in trouble you certainly don’t have the leisure time to read some weighty tome.  No.  You want something that’s easy to read, lays out the facts, provides a straightforward approach and a plan of action.

Interestingly, to me at least, is the reference to shouting, that basically this is an ineffective technique when it comes to parenting.  It’s quite a common reference in parenting books and it always amuses me when I read it.

“The authors accept that this approach is not a quick fix. It is a lot more difficult than simply losing your temper and yelling, but it is also much more affective; with patience and determination parental authority can be restored, and with it the harmony of home and family life.”

Available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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Developing Optimism, Teaching Children the Value of Positive Thinking by Barb Rumson, Grades 4-6.  [In the UK that would translate to between ages roughly 9 to 12].  My copy is from Fearon Teacher Aids

As a die in the wood pessimist and skeptic, it’s hardly surprising to find that one of my children is also a pessimist.

Many might say that character and personality differences are beneficial for the world at large, humanity as a whole.  I think it would be deathly dull if we all thought the same way.  However, there comes a point where pessimism drops over to the dark side.  Here, pessimism is more than mere grumpiness.  Anxiety and stress conspire to drag some people down and a dollop of optimism may prove a great antidote.  While they’re young, we parents are here to mop up the misery, but how much better for them if were able to  teach them coping mechanisms to use themselves.  For us it’s a question of coaching, coaxing and practice.  I suspect some personality traits are immutable but I would like to give them the best possible chance of a brighter future.

Since I know very little about psychology I needed a guide and this book has proved to be just the ticket.  Not only that, it’s cheap.  Barb Rumson provides a practical  approach which can be adapted to meet the needs of children like mine.  So if a child’s reading age doesn’t match, I can simplify the language but give the same underlying message.

The book is made up of 12 lessons, designed for classroom use.   It begins with a short story  about two children demonstrating two very different personalities – ‘are you an optimist or a pessimist?’   Some of the exercises are designed for group activities, but the main meat of the material can be used independently.  Although you could follow each lesson sequentially, some lessons are more on target for a particular child.

I particularly liked the true/false questions, fifteen in all, on page 35.  This gives a snapshot of a child’s perspective and outlook on life in general.  This makes a great starting point to have an objective view of where a child is emotionally.  It may be that you’ll be surprised just how positive they are, and it also flags particular areas to work on, like self esteem.

I also like the activities that follow the lesson and help reinforce the message.  We have to pick and choose between these as most fall into the ‘less preferred’ category rather than the ‘fun’ category, although quite often there is a math or science option rather than the language/social science/arts/crafts option.

Meanwhile if anyone comes across a book, a very large one, on the subject:- strategies to defeat the negative voice in your head– that would be a great help.  Inner dialogue seems to have a strangle hold right now and I expect this is an area that lots of us are working on now that our children are growing older.

By the by, my chum Barbara over at TherExtras is hosting a book giveaway so head on over and make a comment to win.

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22 Things a Woman Must Know

–  If she loves a man with Asperger’s Syndrome by Rudy Simone.  Foreword by Maxine Aston

Now there’s a title that just slips of the tongue.  This book has been sculling around the house for more than 18 months in part because I didn’t feel I could really do it justice.  I do not know any young men, or even older men, with Asperger Syndrome.  All I know about, is autism, straight and complicated, and even then I would only ever claim to know a little bit about some aspects of autism.

Additionally, since I am an older woman in a long term partnership, I’m not qualified to consider early romantic emotions—can’t remember that far back.  So that’s why it’s sat there all this while.

Then, just the other day, we experienced something new.

I walked my youngest son away from his class room.  He was, as is quite common, railing at the world, his fists in the air, punching at the skies about all the many injustices of this world.

He was very loud.

People, other mums and dads and children in both directions, were privy to his opinions screamed to the clouds on high.  It’s hard to use your ‘inside’ voice when you have just escaped to the outside, so I thought it best to head for the car at high speed, and beat a hasty retreat.  I confirmed my sympathies with his plight—yes, backpacks on wheels may well be the work of the devil, but people are free to make their own choices and we must be careful not to hurt their feelings.

He seemed not to have noticed the two delightful little girls walking in front of us with the wheelie backpacks—pink.  Nor did he notice their shy glances back at him, the giggles, the smiles.  We gathered together at the curbside to cross the road.  He pogoed on the spot.  They watched.  Marching over the road,  stiff-legged Mario style, it was clear he would not let up any time soon.  His curses, Spongebob mode, continued to flow.  The girls stopped at their car and waved goodbye to my son, saying ‘see you tomorrow.’  Then he noticed them and when prompted, managed a reply.

It was a timely reminder.

Is my son about to have a relationship?

I doubt it.

Is he likely to have one in the future?

Undoubtedly.  I’ll deal with that in time as well or badly as any other parent.  But what about the person he forms a relationship with, if she happens to be a woman?  Would this book help her?  Should I give it to her now so she can read up in advance?

So with that rubric, lets see.

Reading this book reminded me of Cosmopolitan Magazine when I was a teen: straightforward, easy to understand language, brief and always with a positive spin at the end of each chapter which Rudy titled – on a positive note.  For those paragraphs alone, I would give her a good score card, and many of them made me howl with laughter.

I also enjoyed the paragraphs labeled ‘his words,’ which are comments by AS men about the subject of the chapter.  I don’t know if they’re quotes from real [anonymous] people, but I suspect they are.

Number 19 is a good example:- you will never change him, even if you can successfully change his behavior.

His words:-  “Asperger’s is just another thing like restless leg syndrome.”

Then Rudy writes:- “The very things that drive you nuts might be inherently intertwined with the things that are most beguiling.”

Now isn’t that the truth.  I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all that is written here but it is nonetheless valid, interesting and thought provoking.

And lastly, the illustrations by Emma Rios are, of course, quite simply  delightful.

Available from JKP and Amazon.

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Something Different about Dad

Written by Kirsti Evans and Illustrated by John Swogger, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is aimed at young people between the ages of 7 and 15 who have a parent or other adult in their lives with Asperger Syndrome and is styled and designed to meet that need.  As the writer explains it should act as a springboard to further discussion, a tool to break the ice and provide a starting point.

Today, before posting, I have read this book through a third time, just to make sure.

To begin with it’s important to recognize the first two characters, Kirsti and John.  They are important because they pop up later in the book, sprinkled here and there to explain what is going on in the stories.  This point wasn’t immediately clear to me, so I just thought I’d mention it.  Their role could be described as narrators, to clarify aspects of the scenarios.

The book is presented in a casual comic book style and has a comfortable air about it due in part to the font of the typeface and more importantly, the illustrations.  To me, the pictures are a stylized combination of cartoon, anime and manga.  This is great because it makes them familiar and accessible to most young people and it is their very neutrality that makes them universally applicable–the reader can superimpose or imagine their own relative in the place of the characters presented.

One particularly helpful element which could prove useful to many people is the illustration on page 29 [in my copy].  This highlights four aspects of  Asperger Syndrome:  imagination, communication, the senses and emotions, and relationships.  Each one is associated with an icon, a bit like a PEC but the visual works like a shorthand or  short-cut to help someone recall areas which can cause difficulties.

The book provides a number of scenes of everyday family life where everything does not go according to plan.  They focus on different family members in turn.  They are lengthy and detailed but should strike a chord of familiarity.  On completion of each ‘story,’ the narrators untangle the scene to discover what went wrong and why, and more importantly, how the situation could be handled differently in the future.

From this you can tell this book could be a very useful tool, especially because of the positive aspect of ‘how could we do this better.’

If it sounds as if I have reservations you would be right, but this is because the subject matter is complex.  It is difficult to make a complex subject easier to understand.  Simplification is a challenge but necessary–how else could we explain Asperger Syndrome to a youngster?

On the other hand, for the young reader, this book covers any number of sophisticated issues.  Throughout the book something nagged at me, but I couldn’t pin point what it was until I came to the last ‘story.’  Number 6 is called:- ‘What about me?’ where the son of the family takes center stage.  Here he voices what worried me. The book focuses on helping children understand their parent or adult friend with Asperger Syndrome.  It  helps a child look at the situation differently and learn new approaches to reduce future conflict, all of which is great, but it’s asking a lot of that child, any child.  I know these days we are often accused of being too child focused but there is also the accusation that parents are too ‘me–selfish–my time’ obsessed as well.

But that would be only one small blip in an otherwise very useful and sensitively constructed book.  The first thirty plus pages explain many of the aspects of Asperger Syndrome in an illustrative and interesting manner but younger readers may struggle here.  A great deal depends upon the age of the reader and their level of sophistication.  If I were a parent in that situation, I would read the book in it’s entirety and then select one story that best suited my families circumstances for my child to read, preferably together, especially if ‘attention span,’ is an issue.

I would congratulate the authors for producing a well thought out, wonderfully illustrated book which has broken new ground– an exciting new trend–hope it becomes a series? [hint, hint]

p.s. Spoiler alert / warning:-

Some more eagle eyed readers may be able to spot something which bears a remarkable resemblance to a clown face in a wall poster decorating one of the character’s bedroom.

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Without Alice by D.J. Kirkby

DSM IV and the creative writing force

This interview is loosely based upon our old fiend the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition IV – [a rivetingly fun read, probably just before DSM V is published] and some of the more crass things that people sometimes ask out loud.

Here I am ‘interviewing’ DJ Kirkby about the creative writing process that produced her most recent novel called “Without Alice,” and she graciously shares with us the benefits of her experience.

The blurb reads, “Meet a man who you will love to hate until you learn to love him.”  If you win this giveaway, let me know if you do?

1.    Everybody knows that autistic people are emotionally stunted, incapable of empathy and can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes – so how do you?

I’m glad you warned me that these questions had an element of sarcasm in them or I would have been quite shocked to be asked questions like this by yourself.  We are, of course, quite capable of empathy.  I think that we tend to use it in a more subtle and practical fashion (for example; ensuing that steps have been taken to ensure that  the person in need of empathy will not come to any further harm first and foremost) than neurotypical people might and therefore it may not be as obvious to those who are looking for displays of empathy from people with autism but should be immediately obvious to those on the receiving end who are likely to be those who know us well.

2.    You’ve started pretty late as a writer, is that because you’re autistic?

I actually started writing as soon as I could string a few words together to form sentences. I wrote my first story when I was six years old and found that it was a good way to try and explain how different I felt from everyone around me. So I do think that being autistic does define me as a writer as it definitely shaped the way I write.

3.    Autistic people are so single minded that they can tune everything else out – doesn’t this fact give you an unfair advantage by comparison to the average writer?

Erm, yes it does as long as writing is my current favourite thing to be obsessed with. However, when I find a new interest then writing takes a back seat for a while in favour of the new obsession.

4.    How come you’re not an engineer or a computer nerd if you’re really autistic?

Because I find engineering very boring…though I do have to confess to being a bit of a computer nerd. Autistic people are all individuals just like neurotypical people and therefore we all have different areas of interest and hobbies.

5.    Were you diagnosed by a real doctor, one with qualifications, certification and expertise in autism?  Or are you self diagnosed?  What do you think about people who self diagnose?

I was diagnosed by Dr Gould at the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism which is the diagnostic centre for the national Autistic Society UK.  However, I think that there is nothing wrong with self diagnosis if it helps the individual understand themselves better and to be able to put more effective coping mechanisms in place.

6.    I’ve heard that ‘female’ autistics ‘present differently.’  Is there any truth to this?  In what way might this be applicable to you?  In what way[s] has this affected your writing style?

I’m sorry but I don’t understand this question. My son and I are both autistic and we are very similar.  This could be because he is my son or for some other reason. I don’t think it has any effect on my writing style though but a psychiatrist might tell you different.

7.    Do you have a commercial advantage as a writer claiming to have autism?   What do you say to people who accuse you of exploiting the condition?

As far as I know I am the only autistic novelist though there are many people with autism who write poems, stories and non fiction. I don’t think there is a commercial advantage to this, in fact I think it is more likely to put people off buying my books seeing as autism is considered to be, in part,  a communication disability. Regardless, I am proud to be a person with autism and will continue to tell people even if it means they may be less likely to buy my books. I am happy to say that no one has ever accused me of exploiting the fact that I am autistic and I do wonder why anyone ever would want to.

7.    Where do your ideas come from?

I’ve spent my life studying people around me to try and pick up clues of how to behave in a more neurotypical manner and this observation is also great writing fodder

8.    How did you handle rejections of your work?  Which worked for you better – perseverance or unrealistic optimism?

I don’t like rejections but did get some.  Luckily I had more positive feedback on my writing over the years and this encouraged me to keep on writing and submitting my writing.

10.Do you think that a solitary writer’s life is ideal for you since you have Asperger’s Syndrome?  If you’re on your own then no-one will notice the lack of all those multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction surely?

I think saying that writer’s live solitary lives is  stereotyping. Some do but many don’t. I prefer to be less sociable in real life but can be quite social on line on sites such as facebook and twitter.  I don’t know if that is just the way I am or because of autism or a bit of both.

11.Do you have any friends or appropriate peer relationships such as a writing mentor?  If not, is this because of your Aspergers?  Would you like to have such relationships or are they unimportant to you?

I have a few friends and they are my friends because they are willing to tolerate long periods of exclusion from me and my life.  Like i said, I’m not keen on going out socialising and I also hate talking on the phone.  Which means I communicate with my friends by email and text even though they live in the same town as me and I go out with them only very occasionally.  Usually to a restaurant…I’m easily bribed with the promise of a good meal.

12.I know you have a family life but what makes your family different from normal families?  What shared interests do you have as a family or do you all do your own thing?

Our family isn’t a lot different from other families except that we keep to ourselves a lot more.  We spend a lot of time together.  We all enjoy eating outside, gardening, working on our allotment, being at the seaside (though we go to a beach that almost no one else uses), working on our allotment, playing with our pets, gaming, horse riding (youngest son) rugby (middle son) football (husband and two older sons) reading and so on.

13.When writing, how much of your inspiration comes from your personality and how much from being an autistic person?  Is it possible to separate the two?

It is impossible to separate the two. I have to be very careful when I am editing in order to ensure I have enough dialogue in my books to satisfy the neurotypical readers so that I am showing rather than telling the story.

14.Would you describe yourself as lacking social or emotional reciprocity? If yes, then how can you write about it so well?  Is it all in your imagination?

Yes I am  instinctively less forthcoming in that area and have to make myself behave more neurotypically  when at work. I write about it well because I am a registered midwife and have spent countless hours supporting women and their families through the most complex and important  times in their lives from early pregnancy to the early postnatal period during which times I have been able to observe their interactions with each other.

15.Would you agree that your writing has become an encompassing preoccupation?  Do you think your writing is abnormal either in intensity or focus?

I would say no more so than any other writer.

16.Do you have a writing routine?  How strictly do you stick to the schedule?  How do you feel if something interrupts your time-table?

I write in the dark hours when I know everyone else is asleep and therefore I wont be interrupted.

17.Does your writing interfere with your work or other social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning?

Yes, sometimes, especially if I am trying to meet a writing deadline.

18.Did you have a normal childhood?  What would be your definition of normal?

I was raised by a hippie mother in the wilds of the Canadian West Coast.  I would say my childhood was normal to other s in the same situation and that would also be my definition of normal – normal is being the equivalent to the majority of those around you.  I am normal when I go to my adult autism group.

19.Does anyone else in your family have similar deficits?  If so, how will knowledge of their condition affect their careers?

Many people in my family have similar traits.  They are most definitely not considered deficits in our family. I think my son has the best opportunities available to him as he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 6 and so he has his whole life to learn how to work with his autism and find different ways of doing things in order to achieve to the same level or way beyond those in his peer group.

20.Do you feel shame or embarrassment about having a mental disorder or do you feel empowered now you have a better understanding of who you are?

Being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome was one of the most life enhancing things I’ve ever experienced. I have never been embarrassed to be autistic though I do get frustrated with people who seem to believe it is a cop out or an excuse.  I never use it as an excuse but I do sometime use it as a way of explaining why I behave the way I do.

21.How long does it take you to complete a book and how many times do you rewrite it?

It took me 2 years to write the first draft of my first novel and it looks like it will take me about the same for my next one.  I blame this on the fact that I work full time and doing so often drains me emotionally to the point at which I am incapable of writing. The rewrites seem endless but are worth it if it means that the end product is something which can be enjoyed by my readers.

22.Do you plan to keep writing or are you bored of it now?

A very good question. I plan to keep writing but am aware that I could become bored with it at some point.  At which time I will, of course, promptly drop it and move on to something else.

23.Do you have any overlapping/underlying diagnoses such as OCD or ADHD or anxiety?  If so, in what way do these conditions affect your writing?

I am extremely anxious and now have high blood pressure which I am sure is a direct result of a lifetime of worrying and fretting. I don’t think it has any effect on my writing as I don’t seem to feel anxious about that. The book signings and public appearances that follow on from having a book published do make me feel very anxious though.

24.Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

That an autistic person can write a novel.

25.Would you have anything to share or advice to give to other aspiring autistic writers?

Write it

Edit it

Share it

Learn from the criticism as well as the praise

Believe in yourself


Thank you Denyse for sharing that fascinating incite.  So, as you can see, Denyse has achieved the impossible; remained calm and resolute in the face of adversity.

You can visit Denyse at her old blog or better still go to the new site or buy Without Alice  available from Punked Books or from Amazon.

I have one copy to giveaway so make sure to leave a comment and I’ll contact you later if you’re a winner.

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Learning About Friendship by KI.I. Al-Ghani

This book concentrates on children with Asperger Syndrome and High-functioning Autism, and is designed to address many of the difficulties these children experience with friendships.  However, even if your [and my] children have not yet reached this stage of development, the book can still be a useful tool.

The book covers ten different scenarios.  Each chapter starts with an explanation to the adult, parent or carer and raises awareness of some of the common pitfalls.  This is then followed by a social story to illustrate how they can be overcome.  I enjoyed both aspects of these scenarios for several reasons.

Firstly, the explanation told me that the writer knows what she is talking about rather than preaching from on high.

Secondly, it is apparent from the text that her intuitive approach works–she gets the quirks and triggers–in that although you are working on one particular skill, there can be lots of other issues that interfere with the main plan.

Thirdly, she reveals parental errors in a kindly manner.  We know our mistakes, or some of them at least, and she understands why we made them.  To illustrate:- a child has an obsession and the parent literally buys into it.  We end up buying far too many dinosaurs, Thomas paraphernalia and Legos, because as she says, and I quote “a special interest may have been just the key needed to unlock the delay seen in the acquisition of speech and language.”

Fourthly, she used our childrens’ most common obsessions in the social stories – which is a great short cut for us parents as we don’t need to re-write them to fit our children – thank you!

Fifthly, [and this is one of the main reasons I would recommend this book] although as I already said, it’s designed for high functioning and asperger children, many of the social stories are easily adaptable for other children.  Here, you may be doubtful, but I am sure I can convince you by examining one story in particular, the second one- Spit and Chase.  This tackles the issue of children using inappropriate strategies to get attention.  It addresses the underlying behavior which results in spitting.  Here, the children involved are able to speak, but it could just as easily be the case if they were non-verbal.  It’s easier to unscramble the cause of a particular behavior if a child can communicate with words, but it’s not insurmountable if there is no speech.

We may think that some children may not be ready for such material but the underlying tenants described in the social stories are certainly applicable to both of mine, if in a somewhat simplified format and has certainly helped me formulate an approach for the future.

As a final note it would be remiss of me not to mention the illustrations that accompany the stories which are clear cut, black and white line drawings – perfect for my guys who always [used to] had a hard time with photographs of real people and color pictures.  They’re a wonderful and useful addition that complement the stories rather than detract from them.  It wasn’t so long ago that there were whole shelves of books which were off-limits because the pictures triggered all kinds of unpleasantness.

You can see more of K.I. Al-Ghani’s work over here at Kay’s slot at Jacketflap.

And you can buy your own copy from JKP or Amazon as well as her other books.

And lastly, for any of you budding authors out there, you might find it helpful to check out Marni Wandner’s Sneak Attack site which helps people promote their cause be that in the performing arts or other endeavors, such as book promotions, which I came across having read Monica Holloway’s Cowboy and Wills, which I’ll be reviewing shortly, a jolly good read.  And Marni Wandner – she’s a real ‘out of the box’ thinker.

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My Child Has Autism, Now What?

By Susan Larson Kidd published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers Inc.

This slim volume is an ideal first read for parents and carers of children who have just found out about autism.  Susan Larson Kidd’s book demonstrates her years of experience in a forthright manner, avoiding jargon and with many practical examples, hints and tips.

Her ten chapters or steps give a broad overview of many of the pivotal issues that parents and children face, the realities of daily life, right down to the basics.  How basic?  The first chapter covers sleeping, eating and toileting, so yes, it’s a lot to cover but often, certainly for our family, that’s exactly what we needed, somewhere to start, right back to the fundamentals.

This is why I like this book so much because as the title says, ‘my child has autism, now what?’ that’s exactly how it feels at the beginning and how Susan Larson Kidd describes that emotional response in her introduction.  Many parents are completely overwhelmed and do what I did—hit the internet for information with thousands of entries, become distracted by the adverts down the side claiming cures by everything from chelation treatments to snake oil—and experience anxiety.  We’re buried in information, too much.  We need a primer and a starting point and that is what this book provides.

I also appreciate the style of the book and phraseology.  I don’t know if this was deliberate or incidental, but it works, it comes across as empowering.  For example, the second chapter:-

Step Two:  Help your child by using visual supports

There are many other ways of describing the topic but this conveys a different message entirely.  Not only that, Susan then goes on to explain why visual supports are helpful.  Then, she gives a whole host of practical suggestions that do not involve spending vast quantities of money on fancy specialized and expensive equipment.  It’s a ‘can do’ approach which avoids so many pitfalls that can snare the unwary.  It’s easy to forget how vulnerable parents can be when they’re children are first diagnosed, and I would take issue with the chapter on biomedical interventions but any writer on the subject of autism is obliged to address the matter.

She provides any number of useful websites, which is also helpful as I can remember being directed to similar sites or finding my own, only to discover that I’d inadvertently connected my computer to a virus or adverts.  I particularly liked the PEC site where you can design a schedule for free [very important the free] as long as it’s for your private use.

Throughout, the book is sprinkled with illustrations and examples which help drive a point home, clarify concepts and de-mystify complex issues.  But if you need any further convincing I would draw your attention to one short paragraph.  In my copy it’s on page 86, where Susan Larson Kidd tells me that she is crazy and provides an example of her craziness for me, the reader, to assess.  Her example tells of an autistic child in pre-school who hits.  She then goes on to describe the different strategies that the professionals adopt to address the problem—a visual which says ‘no hit,’ accompanied by a symbol. Why might this approach be a mistake? –she asks.

It seems like a solution, why would that be crazy?  There are rarely right or wrong answers in autism.  Wouldn’t that be a good way to start?  To be fair, I mis-quoted Susan.  She didn’t really say she was crazy, just that some of the things she sees professionals do [and I expect we parents are guilty too] drive her crazy.  If you are the parent of an autistic child, maybe you can see some of the pitfalls in this approach.  I can now, but I don’t think I would have done a few years ago and that’s why this is such a great book, because it makes us think about what we do and how we do it.  This is a book that helps parents understand the underlying issues so we are better able to help our children.  It gives us a starting point, what to do, how and why.

And if you want to know the answer, you can buy the book from JKP or Amazon but I’ll give you a hint in the meantime–we need to ask ourselves ‘why’ the child is hitting, ‘what’ the hitting tells us and ‘what do we need to teach the child to communicate instead?’  Now that’s my kind of crazy – thanks Susan.

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