Monday, December 6, 2010

Book review: How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger's

I have a ton of posts I want to write, and will be working on slowly. There was so much blog fodder during the Thanksgiving holiday. Everything from Black Friday shopping to hiding in the liquor section at Walmart, to watching a fruit fight (yes, you read that correctly) in the produce section of Walmart the other night. So many things to write about! But first, a new book review. I just finished How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s, written by Jennifer McIlwee Myers, with a foreword by Temple Grandin.

I will admit I was not entirely sure I’d enjoy this book, because I normally steer clear of “How To” type books. Also, I know very little about Asperger’s, since I have a Jaymes. I’ve never read anything like this except books about the more “classical autism.”

As soon as I started reading, I was hooked. Jennifer writes in such a way that it feels like you’re sitting in a room having a conversation with her over coffee. Her down to earth style of writing makes for a really relaxing and enjoyable read. I will also admit that I understood just about every little side “geek note” included!

The book is, for the most part, common sense. What makes it special is the fact that she is relating the information from a perspective that many of us don’t get- that of an adult diagnosed with Asperger’s. Things I already thought I understood ended up looking a lot different when seen through Jennifer’s “eyes.” Reading through the many little stories and personal anecdotes, I found myself getting excited because I was rethinking things I’ve learned over the last few years; and I felt really motivated to try out some of the ideas put forth in the book.

I most enjoyed the personal stories about the author’s parents and the various ways they taught their children life skills that other kids seem to just pick up on their own. The most important one (in my opinion, obviously) was the story about Jennifer’s mother and her method of teaching her younger son to function in a shopping setting. The process at first seemed really excessive and repetitive, like it would be SO much simpler for the mother to just save herself the work and buy her son’s boots herself. But the lesson the author was trying to share is that while it may be easier/faster/cleaner/less aggravating to just do things for our loved ones with an ASD, it is so important to let them do it, lest they become adults who are unable to do anything for themselves. I admit that this is something I have been guilty of many times, and reading it the way it was set before me in the book inspired me to drop the rushing, frustrated attitude I’ve been known to have. It can be really hard for me to sit and watch Jaymes struggle to do something that I could do for him in a tenth of the time he takes, but I get that it’s important. It’s not just about Jaymes getting his shoes on. It’s about Jaymes being set up to succeed and to have at least the basic self care skills to help him as he grows up.

The second half of the book takes many specific questions and gives information and advice on how to teach those particular skills. Included are questions from “ how on earth do I get my child to exercise?” to topics like getting your child to sleep, wake up on time, study skills, and accepting that mistakes are going to happen, and that they are necessary. Also included is a section called “Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Concepts, which interested me greatly because my husband uses these concepts daily in his job.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Not only was it NOT at all dull or “preachy,” but it gave me a new outlook on many topics I’d long stopped thinking about. Between the humor, the information, and the personable writing style, it’s definitely a keeper. I really recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about ASDs. Even those who don’t know anyone with autism or Asperger’s. In fact, I wish books like this were required reading in high school or college courses. It would dish out a dose of information that would boost society’s acceptance, tolerance, and understanding of children and adults on the spectrum.


leah said...

I love the fact that you do book reviews- those kinds of references are so invaluable!

Hiding in the liquor section at Walmart- I can't wait to read that one! LOL!

Amber DBTD said...

I'm glad you like it! I think it's really important to share this kind of stuff, lord knows there are a billion and one autism books out there, I like to think I'm saving someone some time and helping them get ahold of a really good book.