April is Autism Awareness month. The latest Centers for Disease Control figure for autism prevalence in the United States is one in 110 children by age 8. Once considered rare, this condition is affecting more and more families. Currently, Autism Spectrum Disorder is seen as a spectrum the covers autism, Asperger's syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
The Peter White Public Library recently acquired a DVD copy of the Emmy Award-winning docudrama Temple Grandin. Special effects are used throughout the film to demonstrate how autism distorts sensory processing, making it difficult for an autistic individual such as Grandin to navigate everyday events. Grandin's story is remarkable because her autism is not only an obstacle, but an asset that gives her a special insight to animal behavior. The library will host a free special screening of this movie in the community room at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11.
Readers who are interested in learning more about Temple Grandin may enjoy her newest book, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's.
Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robinson is another insider look at life on the autism spectrum. Robinson grew up before Asperger's syndrome was a diagnostic category. A social outcast as a child, as a young man his special talents won him jobs with toy manufacturers and rock bands. He offers practical advice for Aspergians - and indeed, for anyone who feels "different." The library offers both hardback and audiobook CD editions of this title.
For those looking for a good basic introduction to autism, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Nautbaum is only 111 pages long, easy to skim, and serves as a great introduction to some of the more common issues that concern children on the spectrum.
Founding president of Zero to Three Foundation and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health's Clinical Infant Developmental Program, Stanley Greenspan is best known for developing the Floortime method for working with children with autism. His book Engaging Autism discusses the prognosis for children with autism and how to implement his theories.
For those wanting a more visual demonstration of Greenspan's Floortime techniques, the library recently purchased the DVD Workshop One: Be Your Child's Best Play Partner. Produced by the PLAY Project, the DVD contains techniques and strategies to use at home and at school, and video clips of parents demonstrating effective play-based interventions with their young children with autism.
One of the challenges of parenting a child on the spectrum is recognizing when problem behavior is a symptom of the child's autism and when it is simply a symptom of everyday childhood issues. In the book What Your Explosive Child is Trying to Tell You, Douglas Riley helps parents identify the underlying cause of meltdowns and other problem behavior. Just added to the collection this week, No More Meltdowns by Jed Baker covers similar ground.
At least 80 percent of children with autism also suffer from sensory processing disorder, as do many children and adults not on the spectrum. Lucy Jane Miller's book Sensational Kids helps explain the many different ways sensory problems effect children and how parents can help. The Out of Synch Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz contains a well organized collection of activity ideas to help children with sensory issues.
Some people with autism have seen benefits by following special diets, some have not. Families interested in learning more about this course of treatment can learn more from the books Eating for Autism by Elizabeth Strickland and Healing the New Childhood Epidemics by Kenneth Bock.
One of the major hurdles for most people on the autistic spectrum is social communication. The book Quirky, Yes-Hopeless, No by Cynthia La Brie Norall offers practical tips to help children with Asperger's syndrome be more socially accepted. Navigating the Social World: A Curriculum for Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome, High Functioning Autism and Related Disorders by Jeanette McAfee is another useful source full of applicable ideas.
The New Social Story Book by Carol Gray can be used with young children to help them better understand social situations. This revised and expanded 10th anniversary edition contains over 150 stories with photo illustrations and a CD of printable, editable stories.
- Ellen Moore