Autism Explained – Sara Elliott Price
A short introduction to autism for parents who have either recently had a child diagnosed with autism or think that their child might be autistic. There is a very short list of autism facts which seemed to have largely been gathered from the internet, and in particular places like WebMD. They are also very unflexible:
People with autism take things literally. They don’t understand about idioms, sarcasm, joking, and teasing. They don’t get politeness, tact, holding back or “white lies”. They say what they think without taking into account who they’re speaking to.
There’s a handful of points written in this manner. The thing is there are some autistic children who are overly polite, and will use pleases, thank yous and so on excessively throughout their speech. These are things that frequently present in various degrees, but they are not absolutes.
That said, I do have to commend the author for coming out and writing this without softening it:
Some years ago in the UK a then unknown doctor “discovered” a link between autism and childhood vaccines, causing widespread panic. Thousands of parents refused to immunize for years, so children grew up without protection against potentially serious illnesses. Eventually his research was proven to be inaccurate. So no, there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Then there’s a brief section on schedules and structure which is quite good, if very brief. There is also a part on providing a ‘safe haven’ for an autistic child to use, and the author describes how to ensure that the space is not sensorily overwhelming and gives a few examples of items that could be used.
The chapter on communication has some basic but useful advice on how to communicate with a child non-verbally. There is a brief mention of signing but that is as far as AAC is mentioned, which is a shame considering the author already acknowledged that some research suggests 25% of autistic people may never speak.
The fourth chapter goes through ‘personalized treatment plans’ and includes things such as what IEPs and IFSPs are, what the parents can do and how the parent should organise themselves. There is no discussion of what is actually available in terms of interventions or strategies.
The next chapter covers ‘Outbursts, Meltdowns, and Repetitive Behaviour’, this chapters isn’t too bad. It discusses the use of an ABC chart (not in those words – it just calls it a log) and advises on not dismissing behaviour as ‘naughty’ and to consider things like sensory processing. There is also a part on using sensory breaks to help a child deal with the world around them. Then the book finishes with advice for parents on how to cope, where to seek advice and support and how to make sure that they aren’t placing their problems on their child.
There are worse introductions to autism out there and whilst some of the information isn’t completely accurate, a lot of the advice is pretty good. As an introductory text to a worried and confused parent it’s okay – but it won’t provide the depth of information you need.
Is it worth reading? If you are only just beginning to find out about autism, and you are a parent, you could give this book a read – it won’t take long. Anyone after something of more substance should look elsewhere.