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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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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More Rare than Gold

Special education teachers often get a bad rap although that’s not my personal experience. There are some real gems out there, underpaid and undervalued but nonetheless still giving of their best.

Here in California when over 22,000 pink slips have been issued, I think it’s important to pay tribute to those who work in special education, the professionals we trust with the care of our children, both teachers and aides because it’s all about teamwork. Not only do they need to teach the curriculum and cater to each of the differing special needs of their charges, they also need to deal with the unexpected. I can think of no better way to illustrate the unexpected than to demonstrate the unexpected with an example.

This is of course hearsay as I wasn’t there myself at the time.

My son and his pals enjoy the addition of a new play fellow in their classroom The new chap has a lot of catching up to do because he is in a new environment. Like most ‘new kids,’ he has lots of questions that need lots of answers, ordinary questions, such as the rules. Most children want to know the rules but many children are of a very literal frame of mind, which means that the rules are taken quite literally. Hence the other children half listen to the conversation between the teacher and the new boy as they complete their worksheets.

New boy: “are pets allowed in school?”
Teacher:- “no I’m sorry to tell you that no pets are allowed in school.”
New boy: “are dogs allowed on the school grounds?”
Teacher: “no I’m afraid there’s a strict rule about allowing dogs on the premises, we have to be careful.”
New boy: “are cats allowed on the premises?”
Teacher: “sadly, cats aren’t allowed on school grounds either.” The last sentence is my son’s cue to stand up, walk to the wall to collect his backpack and head towards the exit but his teacher intervenes, “what’s up my friend?”
“Meow!”
“Oh dear. I was forgetting. Of course! You are part cat!”

Did you remember to thank your teachers and aides today?

Don’t forget to add your name to the “list.”


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Damned lies and Statistics

In American, or more particularly in California, we are encouraged to nurture our inner child, to hold onto that innocence, especially if we wish to maintain our mental health. And who doesn't want to do that?

As adults, we try and remember that even the most wizened and cynical of us, can
learn from children. But does that still hold true if those children are autistic? Probably not. Not going to glean a lot of insight from those little chappies, and they are mainly chaps, depending upon which set of statistics you care to favour.

Personally, I like the one that suggests that as many as 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autism. I love statistics because you can prove anything with them by careful manipulation. I thought that I was the only person locally, or even nationally with two autistic boys, but now that they're both at the same school, I find that other families with two. [Ref 1]


What does that mean? Well, it means that together, we three families, have six children, autistic ones, of a similar age, in one school. If there are thirty children in a class, that means that each class will have an autistic child. And why would that matter? It means that your child will be in close proximity with mine. In fact, because my boys are only 17 months apart, they could be in the same class together.

They separate twins, but the same doesn't apply to siblings, I've checked. That means that your child might sit next to mine, perhaps one either side. In fact those other autistic children, the two that are the right age, might end up in the same class too. My two and four more, because it's largely a matter of chance. Wouldn't that be super! Your child with four or six little autistic kids, all pals together in the same class. It would be even better if the class had only 20 children, although it would mess up my statistics a bit.

Your child would be a great role model for my children. Mine could copy yours, then they'd learn how to behave properly, just like yours do. Children learn more from their peers than their parents by the time they're in school, a sort of transfer of allegiance if you will. But that's fabulous for me, because you've taught your children a great set of moral values, things that mine might not understand, like non-discrimination and inclusion. You know, like the Barney song: ‘we include everyone!’ I bet your kids can sing every word perfectly. Doesn’t that warm your heart?

Don't worry, I lied when I said that our children would meet. My children are in the special ed class, separate, protected and nurtured, because it would be ghastly if they were all in together. They might be bullied. Wouldn’t that be dreadful? Mine of course, not yours.

Fancy a play date? Pick up the phone and give me a tinkle.

[Ref 1] and don’t forget ‘George and Sam,’ by Charlotte Moore, but they’re on a different continent so we won’t count them. Then there’s Luke Jackson and his siblings {Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome} but they’re on the same tiny little island, so we’ll ignore them too.

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