Autism…What Does It Mean to Me?
Publishing Info: Softcover 306 pages/ September 2000
Reviewed by Maureen Bennie: Director, Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
Autism…What Does It Mean to Me? written by TEACCH therapist Catherine Faherty is a supportive, self-awareness program for young people ages 8 – 14 with high functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger Syndrome. The workbook format of this book, designed to be written in, creates a framework to assist the individual in thinking about themselves, who they are, and what makes them unique.
Each chapter covers a wide variety of topics and situations that a young person will face throughout their development such as thinking styles, sensory issues, discovering talents, people in their lives, communication, feelings, school issues and friends. The worksheets are written using the pronoun “I” to provide clarity for the reader with autism. There is often confusion around pronoun usage, particularly with the word “you” when it is referring to the reader.
The worksheets build self-esteem and awareness through self-discovery exercises. Each worksheet follows the similar format of having the individual circle or highlight which statements are true for them. Affirmative statements written in bold text highlight the way things are in the world we live in. Many of the worksheets read like a social story. The language is straightforward and avoids the use of idioms and complex vocabulary.
The space provided for written work is never visually overwhelming and all work has a definite beginning and end. Seeing the beginning and end to an exercise will lessen anxiety. Short sentences keep the writing process from becoming a burden. Writing is often not a strength for people on the autism spectrum.
The second half of each chapter is for parents and teachers, although this book can be used by any therapist who works with a child on the autism spectrum. This part supplements the workbook pages with related concepts, ideas and practical suggestions. The ideas checklist at the beginning of these sections highlights what you will be working on to support the individual. Suggestions follow the TEACCH approach using visual supports, Social Stories ™, and kinesthetic learning or “doing” the task, not just talking about it.
The parent/teacher sections are peppered with statements from people on the autism spectrum who provide clarity on the “why” of behavior and their thoughts. The resource recommendations throughout the book give support for the suggested ideas. Illustrations by people on the spectrum humanize the book and what we are trying to achieve by using this program – self expression, awareness and self-discovery.
Catherine Faherty’s Autism…What Does It Mean to Me? is a great program to use for introducing a young person to their autism spectrum disorder. Its positive approach and message will encourage a dialogue and keep self-esteem intact.
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