Girls Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders Practical Solutions for Addressing Everyday Challenges
Author: Lori Ernsperger, Ph.D., and Danielle Wendel
Publishing Info: Paperback 241 pages / August 2007
Reviewed by Maureen Bennie: Director, Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
There is an abundance of literature available on a variety of topics about autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, most of these materials are written with males in mind since they comprise most of population diagnosed with ASD. There are some excellent personal perspective stories written by women on the spectrum such as Dr. Temple Grandin, Donna Williams, and Liane Willey, but there are almost no books written about working or living with females with ASD.
Girls Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders fills this gap well by highlighting issues for females from the early years to young adulthood. Author Dr. Lori Ernsperger, an autism and behavioral specialist, provides the issues and strategies information while mother Danielle Wendell gives us the important parent perspective and what parents experience on the life journey of raising a daughter.
The ratio of boys to girls with ASD is 4:1; it is as high as 10:1 for Asperger Syndrome. Little is known about gender differences in ASD yet observable differences exist. Most diagnostic and assessment tools were developed by observing traits in males. Girls on the spectrum present more subtly and therefore, can go undetected. My daughter Julia, who has autism, does not exhibit the same characteristics as my son Marc who has the same diagnosis. Julia is soft-spoken, does not engage in self-stimulatory behavior, has strong imaginative play skills, and is not aggressive. She can be ignored at school because of her compliant behavior whereas my son will get more assistance due to being more overt with his behavior.
For parents of daughters, the ASD journey can be a more isolating experience because there are fewer girls on the spectrum, making it difficult to meet other parents in the same boat. One of the strengths of this book is hearing from other mothers and their experience of raising a daughter. The candid re-telling of trying situations and feelings around ASD make you feel like you are listening to a good friend. Girls with ASD from elementary age to adulthood also speak about their lives – childhood memories, school and community experiences, and frustrations. Hearing their stories provides perspective and insight for both parents and professionals.
Girls Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders introduces you to who are the girls with ASD, the early years, school years, adolescence, early adulthood, and finally what the future may hold. Each chapter is broken down into manageable sub-topics supported by charts, lists, and important points to remember. A summary of the main thoughts ends each chapter.
The overview of the early years to early adulthood experience guides parents and professionals through the myriad of issues and concerns one will encounter. The Early Years chapter covers sleep problems, toileting, eating habits, and problematic behavior. The behavioral strategies are sensible and supported by the appropriate literature.
The School Years discusses IEP’s, social skills, emotions, the OT and speech therapy portfolio, sensory processing disorder and tips for starting the school year. Bullying, a topic often overlooked in other ASD books, is touched upon. The Adolescence/Early Adulthood chapter focuses on self-determination, dating, transition planning, work and college.
The reference section of the book lists some of the best books and articles on topics covered within this book. The appendix contains great websites, a behavioral plan template, a positive environment checklist, and social skills objectives.
This book will aid in effective advocacy for girls on the spectrum who don’t present like their male counterparts and often slip through the diagnostic cracks. One of the many strengths of this book lies with the women who speak about their life experiences so candidly. Girls Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders is essential reading for anyone who needs to understand females with ASD. As a mother of an 8 year old daughter, this book was an eye opener and has given me direction, support and new ideas on how to best help my daughter on this journey.
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