Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Review and Giveaway

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Elaine Hall is the founder of The Miracle Project, an acclaimed arts program for children with autism and other special needs which was featured in the EMMY Award-winning documentary, Autism: The Musical. Together with Executive Director, Diane Isaacs, we are introduced to the training program they developed for The Miracle Project to teach the techniques necessary to reach and teach children on the autism spectrum.

Hall and Isaacs, both mothers of children on the autism spectrum, acknowledge what many parents learn the hard way- to effectively engage with our children, we must develop the skills within ourselves to facilitate interaction through a child-led approach, focusing on the unique skills and talents of the individual, and understanding of sensory needs. Seven Keys to Unlock Autism breaks down these skills into self-guided exercises, together with real-life examples of using each key in a ‘locked’ situation to facilitate genuine inclusion.

The book also comes complete with a DVD featuring experts such as Stephen Shore, Alex Plank, Barry Prizant and the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan discussing how these methods can be used to develop educators and care providers with the necessary skills to enhance the communicative and social skills of children on the autism spectrum.

This work would be essential for a child moving into a mainstreaming situation, particularly if the teacher or facilitator was inexperienced with autism. Indeed, even educators with several years experience would find this an incredibly useful tool if they needed an alternative and creative approach to establishing a relationship with a child for whom other methods have failed.

As we are considering moving Pudding to a mainstream classroom for the first time, I won’t hesitate to give a copy of this book to those entrusted with her education. Without an open-minded appreciation of the different ways our daughter learns and develops, any efforts at effectively building a learning relationship with her will be stalled. This is an excellent guide to supporting a miracle in the classroom.

Here is the best part for you: I have three copies of Seven Keys to Unlock Autism to give away*. To take part, please leave a comment telling us about the miracle in your life, and be sure to “like” my Facebook page where I will be announcing the winners at the end of the week.  ***Giveaway now over, all prizes have been claimed.***

Seven Keys to Unlock Autism by Elaine Hall and Diane Isaacs is published by Jossey-Bass and is available now for purchase.

*Apologies to my international readers, due to shipping restrictions, only those with a valid US, APO or DPO postal address can take part in this giveaway.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 3, 2012 at 11:37 am

Book Review: Raising Resilient Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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When we think of our children on the autism spectrum, a social resilient mindset is not the first thing that springs to mind.  In their latest book, Robert Brooks, Ph.D., and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D., explore  strategies gleamed from their clinical practice working with children diagnosed with ASD and their families.  Indeed, the focus for helping children develop this social mindset is on encouraging parents and other charismatic adults to establish empathetic communication and acceptance, rather than concentrating on the child’s difficulties.  As they write:

“Parents strongly influence, however, whether children with ASD will develop the characteristics and mindset associated with resilience or whether they will be burdened by low self-worth, self-doubt, and a diminished sense of hope.” (p.29)

The authors recognize the challenge of being an empathetic parent to a child “whose perceptions and behaviors are often strikingly different from our own.” (p.32).  Thus the authors provide real-life examples of how they’ve guided other families through the process, and helped them overcome the challenges they faced along the way.  Once parents have faced the challenge of relating to their children in a way that doesn’t cause the child to shut down, they are then given strategies to encourage children to solve the problems they are facing.

One of the strategies the authors promote I found particularly appealing- the notion of using ‘bubble-talk’ to encourage a child to learn the difference between thoughts which may be vocalized, and those which are distressing or off-putting to others.  This technique was used with great success with a number of individuals to help develop more appropriate social interactions.  Though we haven’t personally encountered this problem yet, I know it is only a matter of time, and I will definitely be using this technique with both Pudding and Cubby.

A central tenet Raising Resilient Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders is the role of parents in nurturing “Islands of Competence” in their children.  Many of us have noticed the way our children light up when they can demonstrate their talents.  It just feels right to build on these skills, rather than constantly trying to remediate challenges.  The authors describe promoting the special interests, or unique skills and experience that the individual has and using those as a basis for developing esteem and self-worth.  For many children featured in the book, this was about taking an area of perseveration and allowing this knowledge to be showcased as a talent to be enjoyed by others, and a way of relating to peers.  Of particular poignance was the way the therapists encouraged a ten-year-old boy with Asperger’s to write a book describing how he dealt with his mother’s death, which was subsequently displayed in the school library.

As many of us are aware, our children are all different, and what works for one may have opposite effect on another.  Brooks and Goldstein advocate that we “consider potential roadblocks in advance…knowing that if one approach does no work, there are others that might, provides families with a very precious commodity: hope.” (pp.171-2).  Indeed, just because a strategy is not successful in our first attempt, it does not mean that it won’t work later.  Rather than seeing the problem of our child’s behavior, or indeed- in our parenting- we should look at the ways we can address particular skills.

This book will be of particular use to parents whose relationship with their child could use some expert guidance to get it back on track, especially those who frequently find their well-intentioned efforts to help their children fix their problems and social deficits are rebuffed or have disastrous consequences.  A guide to supporting and promoting a child’s strengths and talents to allow them to champion adversity and develop the social resilience so essential for a positive outcome in adulthood.

“Children with ASD are capable of finding happiness, success, attachment, and comfort in adult life…this book will be of help to parents and other caregivers of children on the autism spectrum to attain this happiness and resilience.” (pp. 248-9)

 

Raising Resilient Children with Autism SPectrum Disorders is by Robert Brooks, Ph.D., and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. and is published by McGraw-Hill.  It is available now at Amazon and other leading book stores.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Book Review: The Parents’ Guide to Teaching Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Similar ASDs Real-Life Skills for Independence

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In The Parents’ Guide to Teaching Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Similar ASDs Real-Life Skills for Independence, Patricia Romanowski Bashe guides us through teaching life skills to kids with ASDs with average or above average cognitive skills who are seldom taught the basics of how to get along independently.  It is often assumed that our kids are smart enough to just pick up these skills, but the author describes how various aspects of Asperger Syndrome and other co-occurring conditions make it difficult for our kids to learn.

What’s more, the author knows how difficult it can be to teach proficiency in these areas.  We don’t remember learning these skills ourselves, and our efforts soon end in disaster when we get overwhelmed with emotion.  This book gives us everything we need to overcome these hurdles, and provides a systematic approach to developing the tools our children need for self-reliance.

Patricia Romanowski Bashe is the coauthor of The Oasis Guide to Asperger Syndrome, one of the first books I devoured following Pudding’s diagnosis two years ago.  When her publishers contacted me to see if I’d review a copy of her new book, I jumped at the chance, even though I felt like Pudding’s self-help skills were pretty okay.  I thought this book would be a great one to have on my shelf as Pudding gets older and we have to start working on ways she can be more independent.

I couldn’t have been more wrong- this is not a book that stayed on my shelf!  I was implementing changes before I’d even finished reading.  As a parent of a child on the spectrum, the author knows how much easier it is to just do things ourselves.  When you’re in a hurry (and when aren’t we in a hurry?) you don’t have time to teach these skills.  As a behavior analyst, she knows the implications of not allowing our kids to develop their independence.

Now, as I mentioned, I didn’t particularly feel that Pudding is a particularly dependent child; but by helping her in the wrong way, I’d been unintentionally encouraging her to be more dependent on me.  I often talk Pudding through a series of actions, like getting dressed, or cleaning her room.  It gets the job done, but it doesn’t teach Pudding to do it herself.  If I (or somebody else) were not there to keep giving the directions, she would not be able to complete the activity.  And the worst thing about my talking her through it?  It makes it even more difficult for her to concentrate on what she needs to do:

Remember that kids with AS are attracted to language; when words start flowing in, their attention to most other stimuli goes out the window.” p.148

The more I read, the sooner I wanted to alter my techniques.  Like many parents, I have some reservations about the use of an ABA approach.  While I think it is an excellent tool for teaching skills, and perhaps “real-life” skills most of all, I’ve always been put off by the idea of collecting and monitoring data.  Every single objection I had is addressed in the book, and explained in a way that makes sense to me- we are evaluating the usefulness of the teaching method, rather than the performance of the child.

I was ready to jump in.

The book comes complete with all you need to get started, including a chart showing at which age most children have acquired certain skills.  Pudding has just turned 5, so I looked for a task we’d never tried before to get started: making her own bed (not perfectly).  This was a good place to start.  It is easy for me to remain calm and objective (and not interfere) while observing Pudding making a bed.  There was no safety issue at stake, and as we are on Christmas break, no real hurry or time pressure.  The conditions were perfect.  I found a suitable reinforcer, and using the techniques detailed in the book, Pudding is now independently making her own bed in the mornings.  No nagging, no prompting, just another skill that she will use throughout her life.

There are plenty more to get working on.  Learning and developing the skills our kids need to live independently is going to take time and effort, it is never too early to start.  As Bashe writes:

“Ultimately, it’s all about choice.  And when we limit the skills needed to exercise choices, we limit choice.”

I couldn’t recommend this book enough.  It has everything you need to begin teaching or shaping the skills our kids need for when we’re not around.  It might be the best gift we ever give our children.

The Parents’ Guide to Teaching Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Similar ASDs Real-Life Skills for Independence is available now.  You can find more information about Patty Bashe at her web site >here< and purchase the book from Amazon >here<.


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 29, 2011 at 7:22 am