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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thinking Person's Guide to Autism

I finally finished reading Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. It took several months to read 1 or 2 essays in the morning-then digesting them along with my breakfast. The reading is not light and the editors did a fantastic job of finding diversified, sometimes controversial viewpoints including those of teachers, therapists, parents and adult voices with autism. The writers come from various stages of autism involvement ranging from parents of young children who recently  received the  diagnosis, the perspective of a mom with a young adult moving into a community residence and an adult who didn’t receive the autism diagnosis until age 50.  

Since as the expression goes-you meet one reader of an autism book……. you’ve met one reader of an autism book… (you know what I mean….), we readers will react according to our unique backgrounds and experiences. As an occupational therapist working with young children on the spectrum and mother of a college student with Asperger’s syndrome-the goal of eliminating or at least decreasing the stigma of being neurologically and socially different very much touches home. I loved the strategies that included- educating the teachers and classmates, forgiving neighbors, family and others who don’t “get it” and building a support network.

I appreciated the perspectives on autism “cults” that pried on vulnerable parents who will do anything to find a cure. Since I have always recognized the genetic traits passed down to my son who was sensory fussy since birth and as a therapist who wants to use evidence-based treatment strategies, I  want to see the evidence before “buying hope” and hope that reading these perspectives will persuade others to do the same.

It is a challenge to write a book review after reading an overwhelming amount of information and viewpoints-but the editors organize the content so that readers can easily jump right to their relevant topics-whether it be day to day solutions such as how to cope with a picky eater, finding emotional support after receiving the diagnosis or how to advocate in the school and work settings.

 The essay that stood out for me was written anonymously with the ominous title of ‘Why I Can’t Breathe Tonight”.  A professional felt compelled to share her panic and anger over her treatment as school therapist.  A handful (maybe 5%) of the parents assumed her to be incompetent and was quick to bring in the lawyers and “experts” to prove her wrong. She described how this occurred despite working in an excellent school district and that the stress that created high special education turnover didn’t benefit the students. This was a voice I don’t typically hear when reading blogs, articles or essays. With that said- some of the essays in this book are controversial and will hit nerves but that’s what a thinking person’s guide is all about. If you are a thinking person and autism touches your life- I highly recommend this book!

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