OAARSN Book Reviews

A GUIDE related to:
Support workers, and your individual with exceptionalities
By Janice I. Adams.
Adams Publications, 2001, 52 pages 

Autism-P.D.D.
More Creative Ideas from Age Eight to Early Adulthood
By Janice I. Adams.
Adams Publications, 1997. 155 pages 

Reviewed by Amar Arneja of Guelph

These books are remarkable for being by an Ontario special education teacher who also has a son with autism. Janice Adams started her career as an artist.  She studied painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking at McMaster University and in 1977 she began a career teaching visual arts to High School students in Blenheim, Ontario. During her first ten years as a teacher she also had showings of her several galleries, illustrated a skating manual and began the first of three large murals which eventually found their way into a local church, a school library and an organization which served the needs of children with exceptionalities.

The birth of her second son, Ethan in 1987 changed life dramatically. By the age of five, he had diagnoses of asthma, autism and a very severe pediatric seizure disorder. She took leave from teaching to study Ontario programs that had been successful teaching and integrating children with autism. She and her husband took training in the Hanen Early Language program, and she has developed and designed augmentative communication visual aids for her son.

Since 1992 Ms Adams has also designed and directed a program of integration for children with autism during the summer months—expanded in 1999 to include children with all disabilities. In 1991 she was one of the founding families for a local support group--the Chatham-Kent Chapter of Autism Society Ontario, and served as president for five years. She also founded a cross-disability parent group that has since grown into the "Family Support and Resource Network" and is linked with a dozen other such parent groups across the province.

As she collected more ideas related to 'best practices' when teaching and living with the disorder of autism, she began to write manuals in order to share those strategies. In 1996 she was successful in obtaining a grant from the Trillium Foundation. After talking with parents and professionals from across Canada as well as within the United States, she wrote and published Autism-P.D.D: More Creative Ideas from age eight to early adulthood. Her Guide Related to Support Workers is grounded in her family’s long experience. Janice Adams has also been working on a book that “chronicles the journey that her child and family have undergone facing the challenge not only of autism, but of the System itself.”
 
 

A GUIDE related to:
Support workers, and your individual with exceptionalities
By Janice I. Adams.

As more and more adults with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) are coming out of the school system into the community and are living with their families, there is a great need to find and hire support workers.  By funding such as Special-Services-at-Home, Governments are also encouraging individuals with exceptionalities to stay within their homes and communities rather than move to institutional environments. This funding allows families or caregivers to hire support workers to care for their loved ones. 

Locating prospective workers can be very time-consuming and difficult. This guide helps families and caregivers make informed choices by following the simple process of how to find a worker. There are guidelines for each step by which to go through the process of finding workers from the community, interviewing, training and maintaining the team.

The first step is to write down the job description and your expectations. The formal requirements of the job could address any number of things such as the way you wish the worker to dress in public with your child, number of hours per week, rate of pay, amount of notice you expect them to give you if they leave the position and so on. 

The next item in preparation is writing down a profile of the individual. There is a long list of things that can be included in the profile such as medication, food and drug allergies, likes and dislikes of the individual and modifications needed in a sport, an academic task or living skill.

Where to look for prospective workers? Some of the examples are, putting an ad in the local newspaper, contacting local colleges and universities, local employment center and community bulletin boards.

It is very important to select the best person from the list of candidates. Pages 4 to 9 explain the techniques to profile the candidate during the interview. What to ask the candidate prior to arranging an interview? What things to check prior to telephoning for an interview? What questions to ask during the interview? These and other suggestions are in the checklist so that you don’t miss to ask some relevant information to your particular situation such as if the candidate has valid CPR certificate, drivers license, current First aid certificate, Early Childhood Course or Police check etc.

The next section in the guide is about observing the worker with the individual and seeing how the two are getting along. There is a training period during which modifications may be required. It is beneficial to have more than one person watching in order to notice things you might miss. See if the worker greets the individual, using his/her name, in a friendly manner? Ask the worker what he/she observed of the child and what this might mean. This will give you an indication as to his/her powers of assessment, observation and thinking process.

The final section is about resolving any issues that may come up and the worst case scenario where you feel that the worker has to be replaced. Advice is given about how to handle this situation.

Overall I found this guide to be very well written and extremely useful for the parents and caregivers to follow when looking for support workers.
 

Autism-P.D.D.
More Creative Ideas from Age Eight to Early Adulthood
By Janice I. Adams.

Schools need to shift their primary focus from teaching academics to that of teaching social skills. Social skills should be taught much earlier both at school and at home. Along with social skills the communication and behaviour are also very important. This is the main message in this book.

There is a great deal of potentially valuable advice in this book, though the reader has to work hard to find what may be relevant to a particular individual with autism. I mention some examples I found interesting:

  • Personal Coping Strategies along with Peer Tutor Programs. 
  • A Class Wide Social Skills Program that was developed by Dr. Joel Hundert and Penny Burlak of Chedoke McMaster Hospitals (Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation) is explained by its components. 
  • Using visuals to make social contacts and promoting conversations by making phrases visual. This is done by using familiar names and situations of interest to the child and keeping a consistent format for all the idioms that are subsequently used.
  • Music can also influence the development of a child in many ways. Music is built on repetitive words and sentences are strung together in predictable fashion. These aspects of predictability and repetition can be very comforting to persons with autism.
Although there are lots of good ideas in this book, along with tons of case studies, the book is quite difficult and sometimes boring to read. As an example under the heading “ Creative Ideas and General teaching Approaches” on page 94, this is how some common modifications are written:
"- alter the number of words/symbols, their size, delete concepts that are too abstract, add visuals, using the child’s strengths, change the way questions are asked or information is elicited, use the interests of the individual, expand on those interests, slow down the lesson, make things more concrete and hands-on, give the students some independence and control."

I found the graphic layout and point form hard to follow. The book seemed to be aimed at special education teachers and teaching assistants more than at parents. As a reader I found myself either reading three or four times the same paragraph or skipping the whole section and moving on. A thorough index would be really helpful. 

However if you have a lot of patience and read all the 155 pages you will be rewarded with some very good creative ideas that may be unique to your particular individual. 

This is an outline of the book’s contents:
Section One: Socialization and Communication (including general approaches and using visuals)
Section Two: Behaviour and Emotions
Section Three: Relationships, The Family and Sexuality
Section Four: Bridging the Gap (including your observation skills, employment and co-op, transitions, creative services and living options)

For details of how to obtain these books, click on:
http://www.adamspublications.com/obtain.html

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