Parenting and Teaching Children with Autism

by Terry Lamperski, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh, and Lisa M. Jordan, Johnson Cty. Lib., KS

Belli, Brita. The Autism Puzzle: Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Toxins and Rising Autism Rates. Seven Stories. 2012. 208p. index. ISBN 9781609803919. $23.95.            PSYCH

Freelance journalist Belli looks beyond the autism and vaccine controversy to examine how new information about the genetics behind autism, in combination with environmental exposure that occurs before and after birth, could be contributing to the astronomical rise in autism diagnoses occurring today. Belli profiles three different families, each with its own unique autism story, to demonstrate her research into possible causes of autism. She pulls together an impressive amount of data, interpreting evidence that points toward environmental toxins, some of which are common, as a trigger to autism’s development in children. VERDICT Belli combines her perspective as an environmentalist with the experiences of the families she studies to present a well-researched look at the recent rise of autism rates. A great addition to the literature.—LJ

Goddard, Peyton & Diane Goddard with Carol Cujec. I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing—A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Autism. Globe Pequot. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780762779253. $24.95.            PSYCH

In this memoir about facilitated communication, Diane Goddard, joined by her daughter Peyton, shares their experiences with Peyton’s autism. (Peyton, now in her twenties, reflects on events that occurred before she was able to communicate.) Goddard describes her daughter’s life from birth until the present day, first discussing her diagnosis, early challenges, and progress with therapy and schooling. Peyton’s story in those early years is similar to that of so many other children with autism, as she made modest progress in her ability to learn and communicate. However, Peyton became very violent and depressed in her teenage years, and her parents were unable to control her destructive behaviors. Her future looked bleak until Peyton finally found a way to connect through facilitated communication, in which Peyton types with the aid of a “facilitator” who supports her hand or arm. She went on to achieve more than anyone ever expected. VERDICT A heart-wrenching story of parental love for a child no one thought could succeed, this book will provide inspiration to any family experiencing its own trials with an autistic or severely disabled child.—TL

O’Toole, Jennifer Cook. Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding, and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley. 2012. 192p. bibliog. ISBN 9781849059022. pap. $19.95.                         PSYCH

A mother with Asperger syndrome (AS) and three Aspie children, O’Toole is uniquely situated to understand the best ways to approach parenting and teaching youth with AS. O’Toole was diagnosed as an adult, at the same time as her children, and was suddenly able to make sense of many difficulties that she had experienced in her life. As a teacher and social worker of both special-needs and regular-education students, O’Toole offers  insights into how an AS mind works and how best to approach Aspie children to maximize learning and limit meltdowns. She also discusses how these children manage challenges and acquire life skills. VERDICT O’Toole approaches the Aspie lifestyle with a great deal of humor and insight. She’s particularly good at explaining the hurdles Aspie children face daily as they navigate school and social settings, and she helps eraders see the world the way anyone with AS does.  The result is an easy-to-read guide to interacting with Aspie children, replete with additional resources and references. Recommended.—LJ

Palmer, Ann. A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism: How Can I Help? Jessica Kingsley. 2012. c.224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781849058773. pap. $19.95.                        PSYCH

Palmer (Parenting Across the Autism Spectrum: Unexpected Lessons We Have Learned), the parent of an adult with autism, provides a good explanation of what autism is and what it’s like to live with someone on the autism spectrum. She then discusses what parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family members may be experiencing and how they can more positively influence and help one another. The work includes a guide to more books and websites on understanding autism spectrum disorders and its impact on a family. VERDICT A useful tool for extended family members and friends of anyone, helping them gain perspective on their daily challenges; recommended for anyone who knows a family dealing with autism.—TL

Rogers, Sally J. & others. An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities To Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and LearnGuilford. 2012. c.326p. index. ISBN 9781609184704. pap. $16.95.         PSYCH

Coauthors of Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism: Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement, Rogers (psychiatry, MIND Inst., Univ. of California, Davis) and Geraldine Dawson (psychiatry, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), here with Laurie A. Vismara (clinical research scientist, MIND Inst., Univ. of California, Davis), present a program that can help parents of children with autism begin therapy at home, even without a professional therapist. Techniques are presented clearly, along with examples of activities that can be incorporated into everyday home life with the aim of achieving goals like improving communication skills or promoting play with other children. Case studies of actual children further enhance the text. Chapter summaries and checklists help readers organize ideas and take away the main points from each section. VERDICT While this book does not provide any new information about how to treat autism, it does present proven therapies in a clear, concise way that parents can understand. This is a valuable tool for parents of children with ASD who want to maximize learning in the home.—TL

Smith, John & others. Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions Through Everyday Transitions: Small Changes—Big Challenges. Jessica Kingsley. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9781849052757. pap. $22.95.           PSYCH

A hallmark of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is difficulty with change. Parents John Smith and Jane Donlan join with 16-year-old son Bob Smith (coauthors, Create a Reward Plan for Your Child with Asperger Syndrome) to address the difficulties that they encountered together with Bob’s resistance to change. Whether the change is large or small, Smith and Donlan have developed a strategy using a combination of scripts, signs, and sketches to help Bob, and others with ASD, navigate successfully. Using these strategies, the book shows that, with a little forethought and preparation, the stress of upcoming changes can be greatly reduced for both AS children and theirfamilies. Bob also explains why he feels stress in times of change and how the different strategies his parents have developed help him manage. VERDICT The sample scripts, signs, and sketches, as well as Bob’s input, make this a particularly meaningful and useful book. A great addition to any ASD collection; highly recommended.—LJ

Yoshida, Yuko, M.D. Raising Children with Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism: Championing the Individual. Jessica Kingsley. 2012. 256p. tr. by Esther Sanders & Cathy Hirano from Japanese. bibliog. ISBN 9781849053174. pap. $19.95.     PSYCH

Targeting the parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum (AS) and high-functioning autism,,Yoshida (How To Be Yourself in a World That’s Different: An Asperger Syndrome Guide for Adolescents) has developed a caring and compassionate guide for parents new to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Chapters titled “What Is Autism?” and “Rethinking Your Parenting Style,” which focus on social and communication skills, as well as “The Way Forward,” address issues that parents will encounter upon receiving a diagnosis. Using a simple, gentle, voice to explain the nature of autism and shows parents the best ways to assist their children. An extremely valuable Q&A section titled “Helping Daily Life Run Smoothly” provides answers to some of the most common questions parents have about their newly diagnosed child. VERDICT Yoshida’s calm, kind tone will be comforting to parents of children recently diagnosed with ASD. Though the book is translated from Japanese, the issues that children and their parents face when confronted with this diagnosis are the same. A valuable addition to any autism collection.—LJ

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