1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Revised Edition
Parents and professionals can now bypass countless hours spent seeking answers to the mystifying day to day challenges of autism. In a snappy, can-do format, 1001 Great Ideas offers page after page of try-it-now solutions that have worked for thousands with children grappling with communication, social, sensory, behavior, self-care issues and more.
Reviewed by Maureen Bennie
Director Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders is just what the title says – a book rich with ideas on how to enhance skills and further the development of children with autism. Written for both parents and professionals, this resource contains an arsenal of ideas for home, school and therapy sessions. Authors Veronica Zysk, managing editor of Autism Asperger’s Digest magazine, and Ellen Notbohm, mother of a son with autism, have compiled information bytes – strategies and considerations on virtually every topic in autism one can think of. Many of the strategies mentioned can be expanded upon with suggested readings. Websites listed throughout the book give places to go for further information on strategies. Suggested children’s book titles provide added support for concepts. Highlighted areas draw attention to additional information to consider.
Zysk and Notbohm begin their book with a glossary of terms, some of them acronyms such as ADA (American Disabilities Act), NT (neurotypical) and ToM (Theory of Mind). All chapters have the subtitle of Strategies and Considerations – ways of doing things and what to think about. The first 5 chapters explore sensory integration issues, communication, behavior, daily living skills, and social skills.
The first chapter of Sensory Integration begins with suggestions for sensory motor activities that can be done at home using simple materials. The ideas incorporate practical tasks to build skills. For example, for gross motor input, carry the laundry basket or push the vacuum cleaner. Use bath time for sensory input with brisk towel drying, rubbing on body lotion, or using an electric toothbrush. Other highlights include how to make weighted items like a quilt or arms for a chair and 50 ways to get kids moving through water sports, fun on wheels, racket sports, and “take aim” sports such as bowling or golf.
Chapter 2 is about effective communication. Assistive technology, how to establish attention, moving beyond single words, and using visuals are just a few of the many topics covered. A list of recommended children’s books covers both wordless and text generated books. Other topics include how to encourage speech and communication, a list of idioms and why not to use them, definitions of idiomatic language, what to do about use of profanities, and communication goals for the IEP.
The third chapter on behavior hinges on the statement that behavior is communication. We need to approach behavior with 5 guidelines in mind – look for sensory issues, never assume anything, teach functional communication, behavior occurs for a reason, and watch what you reinforce. This chapter explores a myriad of behaviors such as resistant/avoidant behavior, aggressive behavior, self-biting, remaining seated, how to criticize and what to do about stubborn behavior. With so many behaviors covered, it is easy to flip to the paragraph needed for the situation.
Daily Living Skills is an essential chapter for parents who need advice on topics such as moving to a new home, haircuts, hair washing, separation anxiety, nail trimming, eating aversions, shopping, tooth brushing, sleep difficulties and dressing. Having all of the suggestions at your fingertips will take the guesswork out of what to do next when problems erupt. Pick and choose what to read and what is applicable. All suggestions are broken down into manageable steps.
Chapter 5 addresses the concerns of social skills and relationships. Playground interaction, creating joint attention, how to teach social awareness, choosing toys, adapting board games and identifying emotions are just a few of the topics covered in this chapter.
The Teaching and Education chapter is written for teachers but should be read by parents to help them become effective advocates. This knowledge will help parents contribute in a meaningful way to the child’s programming at school. Practical classroom ideas from what to put on the walls to teaching skills to fluency level will help any teacher create a successful learning environment. Appropriate IEP goals and successful inclusion guides both parents and teachers in creating an effective program.
The final chapter, Special Education and the Law, is the legal side of special education law in the USA. A list of websites on where to find information about special education law is provided. Do not worry about this section being applicable to Americans only because there are many good pointers on how to be a successful advocate for children. The rights of teachers in the special education forum are also outlined.
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders is an essential resource for any home or educational library. With its accessible text and format, solutions to everyday problems are only a paragraph away.