Last month's e-mail from Sourcebooks, Inc., the publisher of Jonathan Levy's book What You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Child with Autism, explained that the book:
offers parents 10 specific ways to help their autistic children interact better in the world. The techniques Jonathan outlines in this book were developed by the Autism Treatment Center of America and have produced dramatic results with children whose illnesses range from mild Asperger’s Syndrome to severely autistic. Even following only some of the 10 suggested methods can produce positive changes in autistic children. Of the over 800 families that Jonathan has worked with in the past 12 years, only 3 did not see differences in their children.It sounded promising, of course. But "1o specific ways" to help my autistic child? I mean, if it were that easy - well, I wouldn't really need a book on it, would I? But, I figured, what did I have to lose? I decided to give it a try.
I'm so glad I did.
Levy's book is a quick read. It's easily accessible and instantly understandable. And it's full to the brim with suggestions and examples that resonated with me - that sounded like just the thing to help me approach this or that issue that I'm currently working on with Bud. Levy does, indeed, suggest ten specific things, and he makes no mystery of them - they're listed right there in the table of contents. They are listed, even, in the publisher's press release. They are:
1) Don’t react
2) Make eye contact a priority
3) Join the stims
4) Coping with crying
5) Give the child as much control as possible
6) Focus on attitude
7) Work one-on-one in a nondistracting environment
8) Be dynamic with the child
9) Go directly to language
10) Make sure food isn’t part of the problem
But it's not the list itself that is the goldmine in this book; it's the way that Levy unpacks the list. For each item, Levy provides four things: 1) a good description of a specific problem; 2) a very tangible suggestion about how to address the problem; 3) solid philosophical underpinnings that explain why the suggestion makes sense; and 4) a real-life example of the suggestion in action. And best of all, it is not only easy to understand what Levy is explaining, but it is also easy to implement the suggestions he makes.
Levy is honest and up-front with the fact that he approached his work through one very specific model, the Son Rise program, which he used in his work with the Autism Treatment Center of America. I'll be honest and up-front with the fact that I have almost no familiarity with the Son Rise program, so this post is neither an endorsement for nor a critique of it. I will say, though, that many of the suggestions he makes and examples he gives - especially those that resonated most with me - also seemed to fall in line with many of the philosophies that underlie RDI.
That's not to say that I agreed wholeheartedly with everything Levy had to offer. I found some suggestions that seemed not-quite-right for Bud and me. I found only one that seemed entirely wrong. But, mostly, I found gem after gem after gem. And here's one of the things I liked best about Levy's style and philosophy: In three different places in the book - including the introduction and the conclusion - he made statements like this:
I ask that you read this book with an open mind and heart. If there is advice or activities in the book that you don't agree with, don't do them. Understand, though, that everything here is my best advice to you.Perfect.
I'm glad I read this book when I did - just before the start of a new school year, as Bud is transitioning into a new school setting with new professional and paraprofessional staff. This is exactly the sort of book I want to pass on to the people who'll work with Bud in the years to come - easy to read, easy to grasp, easy to implement. I have a hunch that my copy of this book will be well worn by the end of the fall semester.
Levy provides ten suggestions of things you can do right now to help your child with autism. I'll just provide one:
Read this book.