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

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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

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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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22 Things a Woman Must Know

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–  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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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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