Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Childhood is an introduction to autism for parents which aims to offer something different to the deficit-laden introduction that too many parents are left with post-diagnosis.
Disclosure: I received a (pre-final edit) ARC of this book from the author. There may be some changes between the version I read and the final release version.
An introduction to autism aimed at parents of autistic children, this nine chapterbook covers a range of topics from Frequently Asked Questions through Theories and Myths, to Anxiety and Autistic Loveliness. Beardon brings together his years of experience with the words and experiences of the autistic community in an accessible book that gives parents a more positive overview of autism than can be found in most books with a similar target audience.
Throughout the book, Beardon reinforces the information on the page which examples in the form of scenarios or in back-and-forth conversations between fictional children and parents, with all the examples drawing from real-life experiences of autistic people.
Look back after reading this, I am struck by just how much information Beardon fit into what is a relatively quick and accessible read. I think he manages to cover most (if not all) the main things that parents want, need or should know about autism and what being autistic may mean for their child. It also provides a positive foil to the negative literature that too many parents are left with and it is clear from reading it that Beardon has engaged with the autistic community and taken his cues from there.
“For an autistic child, success may look very different from success for the PNT. We are fairly poor – despite protestations – at recognizing individual needs”.
This engagement can be best seen in the sections of the book where the autistic perspective features in either comparison scenarios – such as early on in the book where two “first day at nursery” experiences are described – or in Question and Answer or Conversational style sections. The different examples given of how autistic children (and autistic people in general) may experience the world are so diverse, realistic and relatable that they could only have been written after considerable time spent learning from autistic people and their experiences.
There are sections of the book which provide introductions to some of the theories of autism and their limitations, not least the fact that actually we have no definitive idea of what autism is, and to some of the discussions taking place within the autistic and autism community and why they can be important to parents (even if they don’t necessarily seem so just after diagnosis). It covers language use and reframing things from a deficit model to a strengths based model, while not diminishing the difficulties that many autistic children go through on a day-to-day basis.
“This does not mean that all autistic children need to avoid any situation that might cause anxiety. What it does mean, though, is that anxiety-inducing situations need to be recognized and understood and systems put in place to alleviate them.”
There are some parts in amongst this where I would have liked more discussion, such as in the section where co-morbid conditions were considered a significant part of the difficulties in autistic children. I highlight this in particular because the co-morbid conditions given as examples are themselves neurodivergent conditions. Are there ADHD books which make claims that ADHD does not cause any problems directly, but that problems are caused by comorbid conditions such as autism? If so – which perspective is right or are neither of them? Or perhaps it varies per person?
Moving on, Anxiety and Sensory Profiles get full chapters to themselves and this is good to see given that these can have an impact across an autistic person’s entire day-to-day experience. The chapter on Sensory Profiles dedicates page time to ensuring that both hyper- and hypo- sensitivities are discussed; important since hypo-sensitivities are too often left out of literature. There are many examples of how autistic people may experience the world and it’s sensory details differently to non-autistic people and again it’s clear that the autistic perspective was sought for these sections.
“Believe the autistic person when he tells you how he is experiencing sensory input. However improbable, however vastly different from anything you might perceive this may be, it is absolutely clear that many autistic people process senses very different from the PNT”
There is so much in this book that I know I can’t fit all of the things I enjoyed into a review without it getting excessively long. So, I will finish this review by pointing out how unusual it is to see (and that in itself is a sad statement) a chapter in a book about autistic children (autistic people really) which is dedicated to the happiness of those children. Or two chapters actually, since the final chapter is “Autistic Loveliness”. I think these chapters alone demonstrate the foil to negativity that this book offers.
“The privilege of being oneself is a gift many take for granted, but for the autistic person, being allowed to be oneself is the greatest and rarest gift of all”.
I was happy reading it – given some of the books I read and review, I can’t overstate how important that was.
Straight to the Top Shelf. You’ve no doubt seen some of the books I’ve live Tweeted recently, this book was exactly what I needed to break up the negativity. I hope it makes it into the hands of lots of parents and professionals, the strengths-based approach and positivity could do a lot of good.
‘Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Childhood’ by Luke Beardon will be released on 25th July 2019.