OAARSN Book Review

 

Our Journey Through High Functioning Autism And Asperger Syndrome: A Roadmap

Edited by Linda Andron
Jessica Kingsley Publishing, 2000. 160 p.
Available in Canada for $36.40 CDN from Irwin Publishing

Reviewed for OAARSN by Lucie Milne

The stories in this book, written by parents of children with high functioning autism and Aspergers, as well as by their children, are their journeys, their autistic and Aspergers adventures. These experiences have confirmed "the hunches and hopes" of other parents and helped them to apply the authors’ strategies to help their own children. Understanding humour and empathy, speaking neurological speech, making new friendships, fitting into new environments and situations are the topics covered. The stories show those with high-functioning autism and Aspergers have their differences – Do we not all! We see that the children can be comical and creative and that they are very bright. They like themselves just as they are and would like those in the world about them to like them as they are. I wonder how many of us, who are not on an autistic journey of our own, like ourselves as we are!

Who are these individuals and families who share with us their life adventures and learning? What do they give to us?

The first chapter, written by Jeannette Darlington and her two sons Glen and Evan, explores the relatively unknown areas of autism and Aspergers: humour, empathy, and imagination, and shows how this mother guided her sons to be funny and creative. To develop their imagination she drew cartoons, showing, for example, how a favourite toy could be or was already being used in imaginative play. Dramatic play, complete with costume dress up, developed imagination and humour. Videos of dramas enacted reinforced this. "Seeing an old thing in a new way" helps autistic children protect themselves from "getting locked into very rigid patterns of thought." In a cartoon drawing, Jeannette shows the boys turning their train tracks into pistols. To encourage humour, the boys own many comics. Glen’s and Evan’s commentaries of their responses and perspectives add greatly to this chapter.

Linda Andron is a clinical social worker who specializes in autistic and Asperger disorders. She "incorporates academic and theoretical perspectives with those of parents and individuals with high functioning autism and Aspergers Syndrome." Valuable for social workers and therapists are the programs Andron describes.

I especially appreciated young Joshua Mandernach’s taxonomy (I had to look up that word!) of friendship. His listing of definitions of different friendships is one we all should keep for reference as needed.

"Making Friends with Aliens" is the collectively written autobiography of Max with his parents, a creative work so classmates, educators, parents, volunteers and others can know and understand Max. This effort for friendship draws on the remarkable drawing ability of Max and on family snapshots to illustrate the book. In the book are sections for responses and conversation starters for would-be friends. For example: What is your favourite pizza?

It is known that other family members may share symptoms of autism or Aspergers. In his fascinating story "The Aspergers Chronicle" Jim Devine relates how on learning that his son had Aspergers Syndrome he began to realize that he shared some of the same AS characteristics.

More could be said about this book, but personal discovery is a good incentive to read the book. I would like to close with this thought, from the chapter by Fran Goldfarb and Guthrie Devine, that all of us need to learn "how to speak Aspergers." Here is a book to help us do just that.

Irwin Publishing is Canadian agent for important titles in Autism and special needs and mental health generally—such as those published by Jessica Kingsley and Paul H. Brookes Publishing, several of which have been reviewed by OAARSN.

The Irwin Book Club offers 20 % off various professional titles.

Visit www.irwinpublishing.com for more details.

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