Embracing Asperger’s by Richard Bromfield, PhD

A Primer for Parents and Professionals

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In his introduction, Richard Bromfield encapsulates the essence of complexity that is Asperger’s syndrome.  This lets us know, as parents, that we can trust his advice.  His words set the tone and flavor of his approach when he writes:-

‘These children frequently smash through the glass ceilings that authoritative professionals have predicted for them.’

I enjoyed this discrete paradigm: the child, parent and teacher.  Although Richard acknowledges the impact of the deluge of other influences from therapists to peers, he restricts his remit to a manageable 170 pages.

To me, the choice of title seems a curious one–why would anyone NOT embrace Asperger’s?  Certainly, over the years I have met a great many children with Asperger’s syndrome as well as their parents.  As often as not, these parents are forthcoming about their children’s diagnoses, strong advocates, who are proud of their children’s achievements, talents and gifts.  Most of these children are mainstreamed although I would hazard a guess that this is primarily because these is no suitable alternative program.  There is no good fit available.  And that is the unwritten secret of this book, which also accounts, in part, for Bromfield’s patient and compassionate approach.

Most teachers have a heavy workload, more so, in the current economic climate.  Class sizes grow.  Resources shrink.  And then, teachers are expected to expand their skill set to accommodate and teach a wide spectrum, one or more quirky kids, some with learning difficulties, ADHD and maybe Asperger’s.

Teaching is a vocation, a fact reflected in their salaries.  They want the best for their students, all of them, but some are more difficult to engage and motivate.  This is where Bromfield steps in to demonstrate how teachers can intervene to promote successful learners.

There are so many useful bullet points here, one-liners that once grasped could make all the difference in a child’s life:-

–  Don’t take it personally

–  Assume anxiety exists

–  Model acceptance

–  Do not turn away from depression

But I won’t give too much away.

Bromfield’s hands-on experience shines throughout this book; his insight is sure to prove invaluable to many readers.

I do have one criticism, something easily amended on the next printing:-  give me an index!  [please]

 

Available from JKP and Amazon.

 

 

 

 


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From Anxiety to Meltdown How Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Deal with Anxiety, Experience Meltdowns, Manifest Tantrums, and How You Can Intervene Effectively Deborah Lipsky

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Deborah Lipsky, the self dubbed Raccoon Lady, has written a must read for people like me.  People like me with children on the spectrum are apt to sit on my children’s shoulders and try to examine the insides of their heads.  It is a less than perfect arrangement.  More often than not, what with the speech delays and such, my translations are usually just my best guess with a dollop of wishful thinking.

So here, Deborah provides great insight into the thought processes and thinking patterns applicable to many people on the spectrum.  Her perspective may not be unique, in that there are lots of other autistic people with similar viewpoints, but the trouble is that not enough of them have written a book about it to enlighten us.  So here is the opportunity.

 

I particularly warm to her distinction between a meltdown and a tantrum, but that is probably because I agree with her.  You may well think otherwise, as you are entitled to, once you have read the book.

 

Her insights, tips and approach should prove invaluable to many, but for me, I was particularly interested to read about the interplay between anxiety, OCD, stress and how these elements can affect someone in their adult life.  Her account provides ample evidence about the importance of intervention early in life, to provide our children with as many coping mechanisms as possible, as well as the need to teach and practice flexible thinking.

 

I was delighted to read about Deborah’s challenging and fulfilling life, which I’m sure will prove inspirational to both parents and autistic children.  It would be far too sweeping to say, ‘Nothing holds you back except the limits imposed by yourself,’ but the impulse to self-censure is a commonplace part of the human condition.

p.s. lastly, I would like to add a request, namely, that a sequel might look at another black and white issue:  depression, autism and the mire of inertia.  How can parents intervene effectively?

 

Available from JKP.

 

And you can visit Deborah Lipsky here.

 

P.s.  Added later – thanks to Trish for this link where you can hear and see Deborah lecture where you can get a flavor of her wit and wisdom.


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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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Motor Mouth – who knew a speech delay could be so noisy?

I most certainly am. Or usually I am, quite a chatterbox, but lately I've had my “jaws” strung together with elastic. 3 months now, and believe me, it's no laughing matter, even if I could open my mouth to do so. Dis abled? What a politically charged term. But I have the medical charts to prove it. Has my quality of life been impaired? You bettya! Liquid diet and no bits, is about as boring as you can possibly get.

My condition is a temporary one. Furthermore, I only have myself to blame, as the jaw surgery was a choice, self induced. Maybe I should have had brain surgery first to forestall such foolishness? For others, their circumstances did not involve an element of choice nor is it temporary. I could give you a list of my chums over the years who are categorized into this or that little box in a wide variety of manners, from Thalidomide [that dates us] to hearing impaired, but I'll stick to the spectrum that is closer to home.

Before surgery, when I chatted to my American pal, we would yabber away as I slipped into what I believe to be, a Mid Atlantic accent. We understood each other completely, apart from the odd word hither and thither. When my Irish chum joined us, after introductions, we chattered away, easing into different accents, faster and faster. We left my American pal on the side lines bewildered, as the accents thickened, to cut her off. Speech is one thing, but to make yourself understood is quite another.

For the moment my speech is virtually incomprehensible, without great efforts in the field of enunciation. Still, it gives the stiff upper lip a good work out and ensures that at least part of my stony facial expression has a little animation. My ego benefits tremendously, as there’s nothing like a dose of social embarrassment to whip your pretensions into place. Currently, when I attempt speech I generally only achieve ‘spit.’ This is made all the better if the person you spit on, is a perfect and innocent stranger. It is more or less guaranteed to make you a social outcast. But in the great scheme of things, it is a mere passing trifle, barely a wrinkle. [translation = doesn’t even reach one grey hair status]

The spectrum that I have some experience of, is autism. It's not direct personal experience, because last time I checked, I was considered perfectly 'normal.' [translation = by some] I only have vicarious experience of autism through my two sons. My second hand view is a warped one, with a limited perspective due to my own ignorance. [translation = old dogs, new tricks and lots of grey hairs]

Some autistic people also have language difficulties. Some do not speak in words. Others have a limited vocabulary, or have the words but an inability to find them or speak them. There are also a group with verbal skills that are so enhanced that they deceive the listener. The complexity and variety of this one element of what can be comorbid with autism, defies description. It is often the most key element that the world at large becomes aware of, because communication is considered a fundamental factor of human existence.

My sons’ autism is also the non-verbal kind, or at least it was when they were first diagnosed. Now don’t get me wrong, it is a truly wonderful development for any child, the development of language that is to say. If you happen to be non-verbal, some people might be forgiven for describing it as miraculous when those first words emerge. Speech, if it happens, comes naturally to many. For others, speech has been carefully developed, encouraged and teased from a child by a speech pathologist, an expert in the field and a dollop of chemistry between the two. Sometimes, this may take many years. Silence is broken by a syllable here and there. Sometimes it fades away and dwindles, for no apparent reason. At other times, it comes in little gushes. The ebb and flow of the verbal tide would best be described by just such an expert.

For right now, the speech that my boys have at their disposal is of an entirely different magnitude than I ever hoped or anticipated. What does it sound like? You probably don’t want to know? To begin with, it is very loud. They learn to modulate their volume but for now there is no ‘off’ switch. A significant percentage of their words are now formed into little sentences. They are repetitive in nature and usually come in sets of three. They usually rhyme or have a definite pattern or rhythm. The majority of verbalizations that fill the intervening periods are sounds,sucking and blowing noises, single syllables in an endless slew of ‘noise.’ But it’s all good practice, exercising the muscles, snapping the synapses. Their sister calls this kind of constant sound ‘motor mouth mode.’

Many people find it difficult to listen to them. Their audience tunes them out as the ‘noise’ is considered jibberish when they’re in ‘motor mouth mode.’ It is difficult to understand what they say. Usually it is only adult who have the patience to listen. There is a smidge of perseveration in there and a tad of OCD on occasions. I could go on but I’m sure that you get the general idea. If I mention that whilst one is in motor mouth mode, the other repeats every word sotto voce [translation = echolalia] you will understand the stereo system that we enjoy.

This very morning, the boys caught me cuddling a cat, Rascal, one of the two. I was admonished for showing favouritism, stroking one but ignoring the other, Unis. I remedied the situation and spat in Unis’s direction, “guess what? I can fix that. Come on then, you big fur ball, come over here and have a cuddle!”

Innocent enough? The sort of thing anyone might say at 5:20 in the morning. The boys! They spent the next forty minutes repeating “Yur a big fur ball! Guess what? Yur a big fur ball! Guess What? Yur a big fur ball! Guess what?” interspersed with guffaws of laughter. [translation = that echoed]

It is not speech that’s the issue. It is the ability to communicate in whatever manner is available, that makes the difference. The heart of the matter, is the ability to tune in to whatever that manner might happen to be.

If you are in need of further comfort “this,” if you missed it may give us pause. What long way “we” have come. Best wishes and cheers!

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