Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If You Could Read My Mind

In recent columns I’ve relied on information from books that I have read in the past. These books are a constant point of reference for me. I continue to look back at these, and not just when I’m writing my column. I turn to these for guidance in raising my son as well.

There are hundreds of books out there about Autism, and I have only read a handful of them. There are first person accounts from people on the spectrum. There are educated books by doctors and other advocates who have suggestions and opinions on the subject. There are also books by parents offering their stories and guidance of what they have learned through raising a child on the spectrum. That’s not to mention the books for children to help them understand Autism.

I’ve written a column on resources in the past touching on some of these books, but I thought that I would share some them my wife and I have found the most interesting and helpful so far. Call them my recommendations for anyone with a child on the spectrum.

“Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison: This is (pardon the pun) one of the most eye opening books I’ve read so far, and one of the most interesting. This is the story of a middle-aged man who only recently (at 40) was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. However, most of his life he knew he was different, but he managed to overcome the social issues to become a successful businessman. Along the way he also discovered several gifts he had including electronic engineering.

This is such a good book because it gives us an insight into what it’s like growing up with Autism. We can understand (if only a little) what it’s like to be socially awkward due to the feelings within an autistic mind. It also gives hope that these things can be overcome with time and work. This book has helped me understand why Konner may laugh at other when they are in pain (as mentioned in a previous column).

“1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk: This is full of great ideas to help parents and teachers (as the title says). This book has little suggestions and steps to help with all sorts of issues including sensory, potty training, communication skills, behavior issues, daily living skills, social issues, school and classroom problems, and even special education law. This has helped us with making Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. It has also helped us with all of the before mentioned problems when dealing with Konner. We even let his teacher borrow it last year to get some ideas in the classroom.

“The Autism Answer Book: More than 300 of the Top Questions Parents Ask” by William Stillman: This is what is says it is, a guide to Autism. If you’re looking for the owner’s manual for an autistic child this is as close as you’re going to get. It has the answer to most questions you will ever have including: What is Autism? How do I get a diagnosis? How can my child succeed in school? What are some Treatment options? Discipline issues, communication issues, and other skill problems are also touched on in this book. This is usually the first place I look for answers or inspiration for my columns. I found bookmarks in this book from where we were working on Konner’s IEP. This has an entire section on helping to understand IEPs (God knows we need as much help with those as possible).

“Act Early Against Autism” by Jayne Lytel: This is another great book for helping parents. It hits on what I’ve been trying to push in recent columns. You must get an early diagnosis and then advocate you’re your child as early as possible. This is the key to success. This book helps with the advocacy portion of parenting. It helps parents with recognizing warning signs, finding the right treatment plans, and then working through the system. If you’re trying to find out the differences between the different disorders on the spectrum this is a great book. It is also probably the in depth book on the laws regarding Autism.

Louder Than Words” by Jenny McCarthy: This book helps understand that Autism is a world-wide issue that affects everyone; including the rich and famous. McCarthy shares her feelings and struggle with her own autistic child in this book and lets us understand the helplessness and other emotions involved, but also instills that there is hope and you have to fight for some of the things that you need to help your child develop.

When I first heard about this I thought, “Why do I want to read about some movie star and her sob story about her son?” Turns out she tells a great story of how she has fought for her child and never gave up hope. This is very inspirational, and intelligently written.

“My Brother Charlie” by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete: This is a great book to help younger kids: siblings and peers. This is the story of one girl’s experience with an autistic sibling and how she came to understand his differences. My wife took this to school and read it to Konner’s class (as well as her first grade class) to help them understand why Konner, and others like him, do things differently.

Research is important in understanding Autism, and finding out what is available in world of Autism advocacy. Internet, iPhone apps, podcasts, books, and magazines are all great places to find information.

If you have suggestions of books that have helped you I would love to hear them. I’m always looking for more information, and I will share the information with the Parent’s of Autism group. We are constantly passing around books to read.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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