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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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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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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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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A Wolf in uncertain attire

Once I have steeled myself to the prospect on an increase work schedule, the sale of the puppy falls through, we have been pipped at the post by some avaricious type. [translation = a non dithering buyer bought our puppy] This gives me time for further reflection and absorb the dire warnings of many of my pals. “Jerry” I analyze my requirements that a dog should provide.

For junior, I need a smallish dog that doesn't jump up and has had it's bark removed. It would be handy if it were also toothless and clawless but I know that is probably asking too much. It should also have enough zip and zing to compete with the energizer bunny.

Senior son requires a dog of a gentle and tender disposition, that would appreciate bear hugs and lots of physical contact. This dog would need to be more of a plodder, perhaps an older dog.

Also the issues of asthma and eczema.

I ignore my older daughter since she is out of the country for the next year and concentrate on the younger one. She has ALWAYS wanted a dog. She is well able to argue her own corner with faithful promises of commitment to feed, play and walk the dog at regular intervals, happy to be honorary poop cleaner. She may have the words, but I suspect that they're hollow. Typical.[!] [?]

Spouse is not keen on a dog. He knows that a dog will mean additional work for me, that is his primary objection.

For myself. Well, let me tell you a tiny tale to explain my innate dislike of dogs. When I was a small person, five, maybe six, we lived in South Africa, in Cape Town. Below Table Mountain, nestled in a suburban district, we lived in an 'all white' area. I learned Afrikaans at school, it was compulsory. It also seemed compulsory for the local inhabitants to guard their little castles with large Alsatians, which they kept on long chains in their gardens. The chain link fences bordering their properties, gave the casual passer by a perfect view of the dogs' slathering, jaws. Their hollow barks confirmed that they were not potential pals to the unwary. One sunny morning, I recall them all being sunny mornings, I walked along the path. [translation = sidewalk] Despite my youth, it was safe in those long distant days, for people to go about their business. 'Protection' was everywhere if you were sophisticated enough to see it.

A large creature, matching the above description, managed to escape his [?] chains, bounded over the fence and chased yours truly until he managed to make physical contact with my right buttock. Fortunately, an adult person arrived in time to disengage the dog's teeth.
What can I say? My body is not physically scarred for life. Despite my penchant for 'whodunnits,' I still cannot watch 'The Hound of the Baskervilles.' Dogs, contrary to popular belief by cat owners, are intelligent. They can smell fear.

This in part, is why the 'dog debate' has continued for several years in an unresolved manner. Anecdotal evidence of the many benefits of dog relationships with autistic children, has tipped the bahttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giflance in favour of expanding our household to welcome a dog.

Although I have studied the questionnaires, 'what kind of dog is right for you?' with due diligence, I am still in a quandary due to the disparate needs of so many different people. A dog with numerous personalities comes to mind, which need not necessarily be a disorder.

My minds eye can already see “Estee”, the puppy [regardless of ‘it’s’ sexual orientation] gamboling joyously with my children. But at night I have other visions of a middle aged hag, walking a dog alone with a pooper scooper in my left hand.

I know that I need to address the flip side, compose my advertisement for the ‘Dawg Day Times’ – 101 benefits of making your home with us!’ a sort of misstatement. I ignore ‘Truth in Advertising’ legislation, with criminal intent.

As I come back to the here and now, I tune back in to my domestic situation as one of the cat climbs up the back of my leg meowing; spouse is attached to the computer, my daughter watches Animal Planet on the telly, senior pogo's in front of the Gamecube and junior has his Ninendo DS at full volume. I shake out some kitty crunchies for our furry friends.

I quite fancy a stroll outside in the peace and quiet with wolf at my side.

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