Understanding Autism - book

Apostrophe book reviews

Three titles: Editorial Board member Dr. Henrietta Shirk reviews three books for Apostrophe.

A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism: How Can I Help?

Ann Palmer
Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2013)

Friends and relatives guide - bookThe stress of coping with an autistic child is often overwhelming for families. Friends and relatives want to help, but they do not know how to do so. A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism: How Can I Help? is a useful resource and a practical guidebook for creating a consistent and mutually beneficial support system for those involved in the everyday care of autistic children.

Author Ann Palmer is the parent of an adult son with autism. She has spent the last 20 years working in the field of autism, including serving as director of advocacy and chapter support for the Autism Society of North Carolina. Palmer writes about her own experiences with her autistic child, and she includes numerous quotations and examples from parents, family, and friends of autistic children that support the advice she offers in the book.

The early chapters offer a definition and summary of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as tips for living with ASD. The following chapters address the concerns of mothers, fathers, siblings, extended family members, and friends. A major message is the importance of all parties to reach out to each other for support. As Palmer states, “Support is a two-way street. The parents of the child with ASD also have an important role in helping to build a trusting, positive relationship with family members and friends.

There are ways that parents can make it easier for others to understand their situation and easier for them to be supportive.

Palmer’s Top Ten Tips for Family Members and Friends in the final chapter of this book provide an excellent summary. These tips are to listen, learn, empathize, accept, reach out, be flexible, communicate, be involved, forgive and take care of yourself. Additionally, A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism: How Can I Help? supplies useful lists of books, websites, and organizations that can further assist those who want to help in his life.

The Special Needs Planning Guide: How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child’s Life

John W. Nadworny
Cynthia R. Haddad
Brookes Publishing (2007)

Special Needs Planning - bookThe Special Needs Planning Guide: How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child’s Life is a one-of-a-kind legal resource book for all families and caregivers who have responsibilities for special needs children. Written by authors who themselves have family members with special needs, this book is a well-written chronological guide for the financial planning required to cover each stage of a child’s life from birth to adulthood.

The book offers comprehensive advice and practical strategies for addressing the confusion and anxiety of planning for the financial future of a child with special needs. The simple planning process presented addresses the most important factors in special needs planning. These five factors are family and support, emotional matters, financial issues, legal concerns and government benefits.

Included are all the tools families need to create an effective action plan for the financial support of their special needs child — planning checklists and forms, a helpful glossary of financial terms, and “planning pointers” that help readers remember the key points of the process. A useful aspect of this book is the extended case studies that present the stories of other families who have addressed the evolving challenges and solutions to common financial planning issues relating to special needs children.

This book is filled with resources, including lists of print sources, relevant websites to investigate and a sample completed Letter of Intent. As the authors observe, “Many families need a catalyst to encourage them to begin the planning process. The Letter of Intent simplifies the planning process by initially asking basic biographic information and progresses to more thoughtful and provoking questions.” These questions are based on the five factors mentioned above, and they provide a checklist for addressing the key elements in planning for the financial future of a special needs child. By stating future financial goals and objectives, parents can assure that future caregivers for a special needs child will follow their expected roles based on the parents’ specific desires and concerns.

Finally, the CD-Rom included in the back of the book contains a special needs planning timeline and a template for a Letter of Intent that enables parents to communicate key information about their autistic child to future caregivers. The Special Needs Planning Guide is a book that parents will find useful for the rest of their lives, and it is also a required addition to the reference library of every service provider. Further information on this important topic may be found on the authors’ website at specialneedsplanning.com.

Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder

Chloe Silverman
Princeton University Press (2012)

Understanding Autism - bookWhile biomedical knowledge is dispersed through an emotionally neutral, technical language that separates experts from laypeople in relation to autism, parental advocacy and activism call these distinctions into question. Chloe Silverman’s Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder addresses the question of love as both a subject and a method for research on autism.

Her book is a social history of the expanding diagnostic category of this contested illness that takes a close look at the role of emotion — specifically, of parental love — in the intense and passionate work of biomedical communities investigating autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, due to dramatically increasing rates of diagnosis, extensive organizational mobilization, journalistic coverage, biomedical research and clinical innovation. Silverman tracks the developments in autism theory and practice over the past half-century and shows how an understanding of autism has been constituted and stabilized through vital efforts of schools, gene banks, professional associations, government committees, parent networks and treatment conferences.

An important aspect of this book is its coverage of the love and labor of parents, who play an important role in developing — in conjunction with medical experts — new forms of treatment and therapy for their children. Silverman reveals how parental care has been a constant driver in the volatile field of autism research and treatment and has served as an inspiration for scientific change.

Silverman’s is one of the few books that record the history of autism. She addresses this challenging task, while skillfully presenting the evolution of modern genetic theory and describing the more controversial treatments with balance. Her writing style is calm, clear and reasonable. This book is understandable, even for the non-expert on the subject of autism.

Recognizing the importance of parental knowledge and observations in treating autism, Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder reveals that effective responses to the disorder demonstrate the mutual interdependence of love and science.

All three reviews were written by Dr. Henrietta Shirk, who teaches in the Technical and Professional Communication Department at Montana Tech of The University of Montana, Butte, Mont. Dr. Shirk is a member of Apostrophe’s editorial board.

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