Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum: Let’s Relate – Brian R. King
I did not like this book after reading fifty pages, but once I finished it the second half really rescued it for me and I found the advice in it very useful. So it’s a good thing I force myself to read these books from cover to cover even if I don’t like them!
The first half of the book is King’s life story as a kind of “autistic looking out” sort of approach. He writes about his early life, about being bullied, his growing popularity as he moved through schooling, the devastation that he experienced when he was diagnosed with cancer, and then onto his adulthood and fatherhood.
Intermingled with his autobiography are bits of information, advice and his opinions on autism and teaching; this is where there are so many things I disagree with and so many things that irritate me. Like his stating that autism is just a personality type – I find that incredibly frustrating. I do not understand how other people can experience this disorder as just a personality type – but I am trying to overcome my black and white thinking so accept that for some people that is the case. However, making blanket statements about it just being a personality type is ridiculous. The advice he gives about working with children is equally frustrating in this section – and in places comes across as his saying “let autistic children do what they want, because they will always do what is best for them, and they will learn what they need to learn naturally anyway”. There was also a number of sections of blaming non-autistics for all the problems of autistic people, and he reinforces the false stereotype that all autistic people have something that they are outstanding at and which will help them to find their path in life. In amongst all of this – autistic people who would have fallen under Kanner’s autism are almost completely ignored and it’s easy to see why parents of children who would have been considered “low functioning” before the labelling began to fall out of favour say that there are not many books aimed at them.
So somehow, after all that I actually managed to get into the book after about 130ish pages (I forget the exact section), and this is where he actually gets to the topic that is referenced in the title of communication and relating. He discusses areas like the fact that autistic people often find non-verbal communication difficult – and that rather than expend energy trying to learn to interpret it, they should instead learn how to clarify. He also covers how to teach a child to accept feedback and how to deliver it in an appropriate way, how to avoid learned helplessness and how to negotiate to come to an acceptable outcome for both parties. He also explains in-depth why making mistakes can be so devastating for autistic people, and how to support them with making mistakes and building up their self-confidence..
This second half of the book is very good, but it does rely on the student having very strong verbal and cognitive reasoning skills – and when he does touch briefly on the fact that some autistic people struggle with communication the only advice there is “find a method that works” – which is so often the advice that is thrown at parents, often in scorn. It’s not just a case of sticking a keyboard in front of an autistic child and off they go – but there really aren’t many books that actively teach communication methods.
Yes – especially if you are autistic yourself and are looking to build on your own communication skills. Parents will find it useful but only if their children already have a reasonably good form of communication – a child that uses PECS Phase IV to request desired items (for example) would perhaps not benefit much from this advice.
Value for money?
Coming in at £13.99 both on Amazon and JKP, I would say that yes, just about. The first half of the book is what’s making me reluctant to recommend it – but other readers may enjoy what he has to say during his autobiographical section. Since it has been out for a number of years, it is also quite frequently available second hand at a lower price.