The Autism Playbook for Teens: Imagination-Based Mindfulness Activities to Calm Yourself, Build Independence, and Connect with Others (The Instant Help Solutions Series)
Today’s nominee for longest book title in the library, the Playbook comes to you with borrowed recommendation from the Hughes Brothers. From John Howard Hughes in particular, the current rancher and erstwhile cowboy, who says, “As soon as I encountered Temple Grandin’s endorsement for the book, I was sold. Sold completely. Temple Grandin taught me more about handling cattle than any other single source, including my family and my neighbors. If she recommends this book, dealing with teenagers now, as a “real, practical and positive guide for reducing stress,” well, that’s more than enough for me.”
The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: Acting as a means of dealing with autism
Take the “playbook” of the title literally. The premise here: teenagers with autism can be outstanding actors, given their natural proclivity for observation. Teen girls, in particular, have developed remarkable abilities to witness, to imitate, and to internalize appropriate, effective social behaviors.
Many of the recommended exercises come directly from theater, from the lessons to be taught an actor. The thinking here: such exercises help a teenager with autism learn body language – other people’s and their own – as an expression of deeper feeling; how tone of voice becomes appropriate to various roles; how scripting ahead of time can help a teen arrive at school, at a party or sporting event, with relationship skills already practiced. Or rehearsed rather.
And so the book trots out strategies for mindfulness and scripts for roleplaying, each geared toward the reduction of anxiety, living in the present moment, reduction of fears and, ultimately, real and deep and abiding connections with others.
The playbook addresses head-on the issues of teen life – anxiety, bullying, depression, eating disorders, problems with self-esteem, and trauma of several sorts. A teenager with autism will learn here the coping skills now that will take them into adulthood, meanwhile delivering the tools necessary for finding one’s way through school and home-life.
The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: A quick trip through the contents
The book begins with breathing. Teens can learn the immediate, the always there calming effect of meaningful, intentional breathing, breathing as a means of focus and fending off anxious moments.
The Hughes Brothers found Chapter 3 novel and appealing. It deals with what the authors call a “pause button,” a means of confronting a difficult situation by first becoming comfortable with oneself, a minute or two of gathering one’s strength, one’s purpose in dealing with whatever life might send along.
The second part of the book deals with management of thoughts, with finding the energy in one’s feelings, all as building blocks toward true and lasting independence. Chapter 8 here gives very practical, quite useful advice in controlling anger, as the chapter’s title suggests, “Basic Meltdown Prevention.”
Part III of the book looks outward, demonstrating means of connection with other people while retaining control of . . . no, directing one’s own life. In one particularly innovative chapter here, the authors discuss the role that curiosity, simple curiosity might play in enlivening a young person with autism, in finding new sources of intellectual satisfaction, personal interest and, ultimately, joy.
The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: A summation
Some of the book’s pronouncements seem obvious, but they bear repeating in the context of a teenager trying to locate himself among social situations that perhaps have troubled him since early childhood. Case in point: a chapter entitled “Practice kindness: Make Friends.”
The book remains one of a kind, however, the only book available for teens with autism combining the comfort and calm of mindfulness skills with an active, a kinetic resource for building authentic social experiences.
And as John Hughes reminds us, “If it’s good enough for Temple Grandin, it’s good enough for me.”