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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Sweet dreams

I arrive just as spouse is tucking them in to bed. “Right, so no pull-up then!” he announces in a booming tone. I stop dead and pout. No pull-up? Who is he to determine withdrawal of pull-up privileges? Is he responsible for the laundry? The inevitable carpet cleaning? Now there's a man who is totally out of line. I think about pulling rank. I decide to keep my own counsel instead, and content myself with thoughts of the following morning's 'I told you so scene.'

The nerve of the man!

I kiss my children good night, hide my pout and return downstairs to smolder. What could he have been thinking, to change the rules in such are arbitrary fashion? No preamble, no warning, no carefully implemented campaign. The man must be completely barmy? I can think of no rational reason why he should have chosen tonight to turn the bed time routine upside down. I froth, stew and steam. [translation = voodoo dolls] I won't have time to do an additional load of laundry tomorrow. The knock on effects could be earth shattering! No spare bed linen. Bare bed. More upset to bed time routine. No sleep for anyone. Curse the man!

In between fumes, I consider my own plan. It's not as if we haven't attempted this 'dry at night' campaign before, it's just that it has yet to be successful. There's no reason that we shouldn't implement a new campaign, we just need careful thought beforehand. How can I have 'beforehand' if we're already after? [translation = failure at the first fence is not a good reinforcer] All campaigns must be orchestrated with the finesse of a conductor. I suppress a growl. Spouse looks across at me. He is unable to detect the steam coming out of my ears, “are you alright love?”
“Fine!”
“Anything wrong?”
“No, nothing. I'm fine, just fine!” I do my best flounce and depart. [translation = high dudgeon] I swear he the most annoying person on the planet. Who does he think he is? Why is the other adult in the household such a complete nit wit. The venom and bile accumulate, but are well leashed.

I debate whether I should lift him later before we go to bed ourselves. Should I haul 56 pounds of sleeping boy onto the toilet? I decide to delete. I stomp back into the family room, because flouncing more than once in any one day, decreased it’s impact. “You’ll be o.k. lifting him later?” I announce rhetorically. He blinks in my direction, “er, sure, if that’s what you want?”
“Me? What I want? And how exactly do my ‘wants’ suddenly come into the equation now?”
“Hmm what?”
“You asked if that is what ‘I want,’ but you weren’t concerned with my wants when you pulled the pull-ups!” I snap with the perfect enunciation of the truly incensed.
“Pulled? Pull-ups? What are you on about?”
“You told him he didn’t have to wear a pull up, without us talking about it first!” I squeak. [translation = and inadvertently spit at the same time]
“Ah! I see.”
“Well?”
“Well what?”
“What do you have to say for yourself!” [translation = Lummy! I’ve turned into my husband’s mummy]
“Well, I er, didn’t have much choice really.” I wait. I wait a bit longer. I suppress a sigh. “Why did you have no choice?”
“Well, it was him wasn’t it.”
“What was him?”
“Him,… I mean…, he said it, he asked, er, he said he didn’t want to wear a pull up any more…… now that he was a big boy, although……those weren’t the words he used………but that’s what he meant,…….I think, yes, that’s what he meant, I’m quite sure.”
“Well why didn’t you tell me that in the first place! That changes everything!”

Moral – before you flounce, feel free to ferret around for the facts first.


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Don't try this at home


Your mission, should you care to take it………is to herd three children from the school yard [translation = playground] to the car parked by the curbside at a distance of a mere 50 yards from where you currently stand?

Recipe – take two people, one adult and one child. Ready? Stand together so that as much of your body is in physical contact with the other. [translation = it doesn't matter whether you're front to back, back to back etc.] This is your starting position. Set? [translation = get ready] It is now the smaller person's duty to rotate around the larger body, whilst remaining in physical contact at high speed. Go! The bigger person must now walk towards the car whilst the other continues to rotate.

The smaller person must move their feet with greater agility to avoid entanglement. [translation = a bit like French skipping] Additionally the smaller person should repeat a phrase of three words continuously, preferably rhyming, at just the right pitch and at 50 decibels in order to ensure that the adult brain is incapable of functioning.

Now, would be the ideal time for the small person to stick their head under the upper garment of the adult such that flabby female flesh is exposed to those who look on bewildered. It will not help to yell 'proprioceptive input' at the aforementioned audience at this time. [translation = or any other time come to think of it]
Continue thusly in the general direction of the car.

Additional garnish – choose from the following [wisely] –
Hold the hand of the child that falls down a lot.
Ensure that you haven't left the third one behind.
Be aware of personal belongings, yours and theirs.
Add crowd.
One pinch of noise [wide choice available to tune into or out of]
A smattering of well wishing comments from friends.
Traffic safety persons [with whistles]

Yes, it is 'oh so cute' when they are two, maybe three, but at six and a half, the general public do not vote this way. They register deviant and give a wide berth to the spectacle.


Repeat as necessary, [translation = daily] until phase passes or a suitable 'intervention' can be manufactured.

It would probably be wrong for the adult to break free at this point and run away, right?
[translation = where is a trampoline when you need one?
Why isn't there a swimming pool there instead of a storm drain?
Why didn't I bring his weighted vest?
Don't you dare carry him!]


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In, Out, Shake it all about

Autism or no autism, some things are beyond the pale. Bear in mind, that for me, musical appreciation would guide me to be more of a ballroom dancer type. A dignified glide, so as not to dislodge the tiara nor muss the corsage. I believe that young people today, do not favour [translation = favor] such pastimes, preferring more aerobic forms of dance. [translation = I am allergic to anything that might make me glow {sub translation = perspire}] But I digress.

Back to the 'shake it all about.' Hold that thought. No! Not that one, delete that naughty thought and go back to the children's perspective. [translation = the innocents] That's right, the Hokey Cokey thought. [translation = Hokey Pokey] Now we're on the same page! Think of this, as a 'not so scholarly critique' or explanation, of this children's dance, possibly from the viewpoint of one, or maybe two, autistic children. Acknowledge or deny as many as you deem appropriate.
For current purposes [translation = controlled clinical environment] we will ignore issues such as the volume of the music, be that self generated, by singing [translation = unlikely] or utilizing some form of modern technology e.g. hifi, stereo, radio, tapes, CD's, records[?] etc. [translation = that's about as modern as we get around here.]

We'll also ignore the following; company. [translation = who is with us] Where we are? [translation = home or somewhere public and scary = synonymous] Variables such as simply having a bad day, any current phobias or obsessions. [e.g. the need to have arms clamped tightly to the body and that legs be pinned together at all times. A bit like a soldier standing to attention but in this instance, for the purpose of self protection.] We want to keep this as simple as possible. With me so far?

So, we have the familiar annoying tune, [translation = temporarily mislaid inner child] with words, simple words. [translation = lets not get bogged down in the speech delays] Although the matter of prepositions can be a nightmare, we will dismiss those too. [translation = in, out, up, down, between and we'll ignore the issue of 'shaking' whilst we're about it] Whilst they know all of these words, then are not considered important enough to use appropriately. On the whole they are surplus to requirements, afterall most of them are pretty small words. Generally speaking they prefer bigger words, multiple syllable words such as 'voracious' or 'commercial.' They may not be able to pronounce them correctly, but they still prefer them. However, such terms are not much use, if you're trying to dance and sing at the same time. [translation = unless you know otherwise?]

Right, so now we've cleared the pathway of clutter, we can begin.
I lied. There are a couple more issues that we need dismiss. [translation = eliminate for the purposes of this discussion] Independence. An autistic child is often independent. By this, I mean that they are on their own programme with their own agenda, as many children are. However, in two particular cases, the cases of my particular sons, [maybe others] when they are doing whatever it is that they are doing, they object strongly to being asked to do something else. This phenomenon is known as a 'transitioning problem.' [Sorry! Challenge] It is an issue for many children, but autistic children are far more tenacious.

This is linked with a secondary [translation = probably far more important] issue of motivation. [translation = I left the best for last] It goes something like this:
Hunker down, gain eye contact, arrange facial features into animated expression, moderate tone of voice to sound excited, use hand gestures assuming that you are not guiding the child's body to orientate them towards you.
“Come on you lot! We are going to play the Hokey Cokey?” Always a statement, never an invitation, as the answer will always be 'no.' [translation = guaranteed.]
“It's not the Hokey Cokey Mom, it's the Hokey Pokey! They're never gonna play if you use the wrong name!” Valid criticism, as always. I put an arm around the shoulder of each boy in the hope of conducting a positive energy force into their little bodies.

“Nah, dat is boring.” Simultaneous hurdles; stop what you are doing [translation = transition] do something more fun [translation = motivation]
“Come on, it will be fun!”
“Nay, dat is not fun.” Child may be reflecting upon the challenge of co-ordinating body parts, following instructions, balance, and such like, all of which have negative connotations because of the perceived difficulty. [translation = which is a reality too] So, just assuming that you have battled your way to this point, you probably have insufficient energy reserves to sing and dance too. [translation = flat battery]

{Sub translation = who needs a tiara anyway?}

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