The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve M.D.

Now five years from its publication, the Survival Guide remains one of a kind; that is, a book meant to be read, in the company of a parent, by a child with ASD. Kid-friendly and then some, no-nonsense, straight-ahead, this book has become a true and comprehensive resource for children trying to understand their situation. Even more, the guide brings along tools to help these kids cope with the difficulties of their daily lives.

Of course, the book underscores the differences, some significant, among children with ASD: some academically gifted, some struggling with life in the classroom; some introverted, some trying so very hard to be social and socially appropriate; some with limited interests, some fixated on a particular object or activity; some dealing with repeated motor movements (“stims” discussed in a Hughes Brothers review on chewing products). The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders addresses all of these variables, helping children know themselves better, accept themselves more fully.

The book begins with the fundamental, the overwhelming questions of a child: “What is happening to me?”, “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “How come only I feel and behave this way?” Again, the authors know that kids can handle the truth, and so they deliver the answers. And then they move on to what might done in the face of those answers.

Ms. Verdick and Doctor Reeve do a magnificent job of simplifying, making available to a child the basics of the human body, the human brain. With this semi-clinical understanding in place, the authors move on to suggestions for managing symptoms while guiding the child through the daily importance of diet, exercise, hygiene, fun and relaxation, sleep, and even toileting. Child readers, and their parents, will find here means of handling their sometimes overpowering emotions and their consequent behaviors. Stories from other children who have confronted the same difficulties bring the book’s necessary abstractions into sharp, knowable focus.

The book’s key features

· Brilliantly colored text

· Cartoon drawings

· Well organized

· Fact boxes

· Checklists for daily activities

· References to other resources

· Glossary

The book’s strongest points

· Eminently readable

· At last, a voice – a knowing and sympathetic voice – for children with autism

· A fine balance between data-laden academic books and overly simplistic books for children only

· A tone neither condescending or overly lofty

· Definitely of more value higher-functioning children with ASD

· A frank and open look at ASD, with no social, no physical manifestation of the disorder off limits

· Real problems with real solutions from and for real kids

· An emphasis on every child’s unique, priceless gifts

No book is perfect. And so.

Boys are diagnosed with autism five times more frequently than girls, and the book chooses its examples, its suggestions toward that fact. The Hughes Brothers, however, have encountered a strong wish from parents of little girls with autism for more inclusion of their needs, of potential responses to ASD that are specifically theirs.

Some parents have said that the book focuses heavily on dealing with situations at school, thereby precluding families who home-school their children. In this same vein, the book does lean toward children who seek sensory stimulation. Little is made for children who avoid sensation at all costs. Some parents worried that guide perhaps gives too much weight to medication.

Still, a book for everyone. Really, everyone.

Obviously directed at families with children on the spectrum, the guide nonetheless serves the greater community, most especially as diagnoses of ASD continue to increase. The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders will help teachers, school administrators, counselors, parents of children who other children with ASD, indeed anyone who knows a family confronting the struggles of ASD.

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