Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review: Social Engagement and the Steps to Being Social by Kathleen Taylor and Marci Laurel

Social Engagement & the Steps to Being Social: A Practical Guide for Teaching Social Skills to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Kathleen Mo Taylor, OTR/L and Marci Laurel, MA CCC

I was quite looking forward to reading this book, assuming from the title that it would be a handbook. As it turns out, it's a textbook which means that it targets a very different audience.

As a textbook, the material is not aimed at parents and aides but rather, at academia. It's a well written book which covers a lot of ground in terms of establishing and improving social contact between people on the autism spectrum and others.

The early chapters cover topics including the getting and retention of attention. There are also some exercises which are designed to increase attention span.

The four sections of social learning are;

  • Self Regulation
  • Shared Space
  • Shared Focus
  • Shared Pleasure

These categories contain many sub-categories which move your child from noticing that they're someone else playing beside them, through to parallel play, joint attention and exchanges though to group co-operation and friendship.

There's a section explaining the details of each of these in groups of four... the lower, middle and upper four.

Throughout the book, there are various case studies highlighting particular techniques which have worked and in the later parts of the book, there are numerous checkboxes and surveys to help you to determine the stage that a given child is at in their social engagement.

I found the book a little too academic for family use but it is certainly useful in academic circles and I expect, also with professionals,particularly in speech and occupational therapy.

Social Engagement and the Steps to being Social by Kathleen Taylor and Marci Laurel is published and available from Future Horizons and is also available from Amazon and Booktopia. It appears to be only available in paperback at the moment, though there are hints that an eBook is on its way.

I'd recommend it for professionals and academics.

Honesty Clause: I was provided with a PDF copy of this book free of charge for review purposes.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: Stressed Out! For Parents: How to Be Calm, Confident & Focused by Dr Ben Bernstein

Stressed Out! For Parents: How to Be Calm, Confident & Focused by Dr Ben Bernstein with Michelle Packard, author of Family Ever After. 

Stressed out is a bit different to the books that I normally review on Life with Aspergers, particularly because it has no direct connection to autism.

Nevertheless, stress is something that most parents are very familiar with, particularly parents with children on the spectrum. Stress is also something that people with Autism, Aspergers or Anxiety experience a great deal.

Throughout the book, it sets up scenes of parental stress ranging from bad behaviour to unmet expectations and full-on family disputes. In those early chapters, I kept expecting the information on calming down to be followed by alternate and workable solutions.

There are no solutions to parenting problems in this book. It's simply “not that kind of book”.

This book aims to make you a better parent but not because of solutions to specific problems. Like the serenity prayer, this book helps you to find your calm centre through the recognition and acceptance of the things that you cannot change.

For example, you want your daughter to clean her room and you become stressed when it doesn't happen. The book doesn't teach you how to motivate or coerce her into doing the work but teaches you to recognise that the stress and the expectations are coming FROM you. You’re bringing those to the table, not your daughter. 

At the end of the day, it’s better to have a messy and happy family than one that is stressed.

The book covers three major concepts and presents three “tools” to help with each. I'm not personally sold on every single one of the concepts in the book but that doesn't mean that they won't be more effective in the hands of people with a less cynical point of view.  Certainly the main stress reduction concepts are valid.

With acceptance out of the way, the book concentrates on empowerment, giving parents the tools to boost their personal confidence and the confidence of their children. It’s the second part of the serenity prayer; the courage to change the things you can.

As it turned out, my review copy of Stressed Out! arrived during a particularly stressful time for me (actually, the last three years or so have been super stressful). I found it very helpful and I'm now approaching my oncoming stressful "event horizon" in a much calmer manner. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the stress in their life, regardless of whether or not it's "parenting stress".

Stressed Out! is published by familius and is available from Amazon in Kindle, Paperback, Hardback and Audible formats. It's also available from Goodreads.

Honesty clause: I was provided with a copy of this ebook free of charge for review purposes.