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Posted March 22, 2009
This book should have been titled "Finding My Child's Way on the Autism Spectrum with ABA." Dr. Hendrickson has impressive credentials, however one has to wonder how many children on the autism spectrum she's actually worked with. Nearly every example in this book describes interactions between herself and her son. The rest are of public figures. While this makes for a decent autobiography, it doesn't cut it for a book that is supposed to be "self-help/how-to."
I can only recommend the final two chapters, which contain some counseling for parents. Dr. Hendrickson would have been much better served writing her entire book from the material in chapters 8 and 9. The Bible verses and counseling insight she shares are incredibly useful, no matter where one is on the autism-parent journey.
Instead, she attempted to write a parenting manual. Unfortunately, she is a strong advocate for ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and spanking. While these methods work for many children including her son, they are not panaceas. There are children for whom ABA methods are too restrictive. There are also children for whom spanking actually provokes additional behaviors rather than extinguishing old ones.
The following topics are conspicuously absent from her book:
*analysing behavior with the ABC method (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence)
*using visual communication strategies
*using token systems and other non-spanking discipline methods
*using sensory integration strategies
*teaching pragmatic (social) speech skills
*teaching children to read non-verbal cues
*improving executive functioning skills (problem solving, organization, etc.)
While she does mention severely autistic children from time to time, she does not offer any real solutions for their parents. In fact, a few of her suggestions would be damaging for a couple of the children I have worked with. She's also dismissive of public school programs, even though she never tried one for her son.
If you are a Christian parent whose higher-functioning child is just beginning his journey with ABA, then this book may be of use to you. If not, you'll have to look elsewhere. It is truly a shame that Hendrickson's biblical insight and counseling expertise are overshadowed by her advocacy for ABA.
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Posted May 5, 2009
I'm the author of this book. I'm writing this review to explain a few things about the unique focus of Finding Your Child's Way on the Autism Spectrum, and how I think it can be helpful for those who have an autism spectrum child in their lives.
Although I am trained as a psychiatrist, I'm not writing as an autism treatment professional. I'm writing as a parent. This book is not a treatment manual, nor is it an exhaustive resource on the various available treatments for autism. There are many excellent books like this already available, and I hope that you'll consult them to learn more about what your options are.
Finding Your Child's Way on the Autism Spectrum also is not a memoir of my work with my son, although I do discuss how I helped him. Eric was very severely autistic at age 3. He was mute, didn't understand what we were saying, and had self-injurious stims. The doctors told us that he was retarded. But at age 17 he was his high school valedictorian, and today he's an honor student at a very competitive university. I do assume that you'll want to know how he got from where he began to where he is today, but this is not my main purpose in telling his story.
I believe that every parent, grandparent, family member, and Sunday school teacher can make a difference in the life of a spectrum child by better understanding what I call his "way." I hope that as you read about Eric's life (told with his generous permission), you'll begin to see how you can discover your own child's unique way. Although I started on my autism journey with professional qualifications that you probably don't have, I believe that any parent or nonprofessional helper can learn to do the same things that I did.
I didn't write Finding Your Child's Way on the Autism Spectrum to show you the one and only guaranteed method for producing improvement in your child. In fact, I don't believe that there is any one and only guaranteed method! But I do believe that, whatever your child's challenges may be, you can help him achieve the potential that God has placed in him. My book isn't intended to replace any treatment or educational approach you may choose. Rather, it's intended to supplement it. As your child comes home every day from school or early intervention, what can you do to help him grow in areas of function that are important to you, especially at home? This is the kind of question that it answers.
Finding Your Child's Way on the Autism Spectrum offers real hope to parents and loved ones of spectrum kids. God created each and every child, including our spectrum kids, for a purpose. Our job as parents is to work with our children's differences instead of against them, to help them develop into the unique adults that God had in mind when He created them. If we see our role in this way, instead of focusing on "remediating deficits," the focus of our hope will also begin to change. Instead of hoping that our child will become as much like a typical kid as possible, we'll begin to see him as unique and precious just the way he is, even if he never becomes class valedictorian or a college honor student. Every child can learn, even those who turn out to have very limited potential, and every parent, grandparent, family member, and Sunday school teacher can be a part of helping him grow to be everything he's capable of becoming!
May you be strengthened and encouraged as you walk with your precious child in his own unique way!
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