It is every parent’s dream to have an alert, happy child like the one on the cover of Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD and Gil Tippy, PsyD. There is no limit for parents with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the hoops they will go through and the bells and whistles they will buy to help their child. As no two children with autism are the same, therefore approaches to reach them and guide them to their full potential are different also. Which program or approach is best? How can parents and educators know where to turn? Become informed, read and research. One book you should read is Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals.
Respecting Autism explains the creation in New York City of Rebecca School by Tina McCourt and Michael Koffler. The school’s program, that focuses on the strengths of each child with autism, is well explained. We learn they craft a program around an autistic child’s abilities and interests to bring out the best in each child. Their methodology is based on the core belief that relationships are the foundation of learning. The school focuses on the individual and is play based. Specifically, play is in accordance with Dr. Greenspan’s Floortime model.
The approach Rebecca School adopted is the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based model (DIR) developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a pioneer in the field of autism and Floortime creator. Dr. Greenspan passed away not long before this book was released. Co-author Dr. Gil Tippy, Rebecca School’s Clinical Director, and the staff continue the work Dr. Greenspan started.
At Rebecca School we believe that everything we do originates with respect. Respect for the children we serve, respect for the staff with whom we work, and respect for the families of the children.
Gil Tippy, PsyD, Clinical Director
According to Dr. Tippy: “At Rebecca School we believe that everything we do originates with respect. Respect for the children we serve, respect for the staff with whom we work, and respect for the families of the children.” At this school, behavior is viewed as communication and it is their belief that kids can grow and develop. Dr. Tippy says, “These high expectations are the structure for the school, and form a framework for the joyful, respectful, rigorous, thinking-based curriculum.”
Respecting Autism has sixteen chapters introducing a new student in each one through their case study. It reminded me of the many August months during my teaching career when I would read case studies of my new students to be ready for a new school year. Dr. Tippy presents the family history and brings to life each child as he was the first time he/she entered The Rebecca School for the first time. The before-and-after scenarios of these students are impressive. Dr. Tippy describes their unique set of circumstances and challenges. Then there is a bullet point list summarising the child’s Sensory and Motor Strengths and Challenges as Understood and Described by the Rebecca School Staff. Followed by this child’s Rebecca School Program in Place Before Consulting with Dr. Greenspan. Each chapter ends with Dr. Greenspan’s Recommendations using DIR/Floortime model and the school’s response to these recommendations.
Each of the sixteen students brought under the microscope is unique. Readers will surely find similarities with the youth they love or work with and will be anxious to see how they are helped at Rebecca School. There is much food for thought between the covers of Respecting Autism.
- “These parents have always been a pleasure to work with, and have reasonable, appropriate, and meaningful goals for their son.”
- “The family has literally transformed their house into a Floortime playroom, with symbolic areas, semi-structured problem-solving areas, and sensory areas. The progress Lydia has made is partially due to her school program, but the level of involvement of this family has made the real difference.”
- “From the quiet, almost inert child whose fondest wish was to be alone with as much of himself in contact with the ground as possible, he has blossomed into an interested, attached , and sometimes frightened, but brave young man, taking his first uncertain steps into new and exciting territory.”
- “Respect is shown when children get recognition for who they are and what they do, when they are allowed to exercise options and make choices within acceptable frameworks, and when their choices are acknowledged and accepted.”
“Don’t be intrusive or demanding, but be empathic and nurturing.”
“Playing …, although seemingly childish, will be tremendously helpful; it will give him the key to opening the toolbox, allowing him to fill the Swiss cheese holes in his early development.”
“It’s important for a boy, particularly one who tends to be aggressive, to be close to his father. He has to be close to both his mother and his father.”
“Everything should be thinking based. If there is one overarching principle, it is to try to not work so much on helping him in a rote way to learn what is or isn’t appropriate behavior. … learn through relationships about what makes people happy, sad, angry, disappointed, jealous, uncomfortable, or embarrassed, and so on, …”
Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD and Gil Tippy, PsyD, should be on the reading lists of therapists and special education teachers, as well as parents of a child with autism. By keeping abreast with new approaches to unlock the autistic mind, you can start to look with optimism, cautiously, to the future… like Raymond’s parents, in the last case study about the boy who would self-regulate by keeping time and focusing on schedules, can now do.
About the Authors
Stanley I. Greenspan, MD, the world’s foremost authority on clinical work with young children and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School, died shortly after finishing his work on this book. His influential books include The Challenging Child and The Growth of the Mind, as well as Engaging Autism and The Child with Special Needs (both coauthored with Serena Wieder, PhD.) Dr. Greenspan was author of over 100 scholarly articles and chapters and author or editor of over forty books, translated into over a dozen languages.
From stanleygreenspan.com I learned, “The Greenspan Floortime Approach is a system developed by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan. Floortime meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through creating a warm relationship and interacting. Floortime is an evidence-based practice. In 2011, two new randomized-controlled studies showed statistically significant improvement in children with autism who used Floortime versus a mix of behavioral approaches.”
Gil Tippy, PsyD is a founder of the Rebecca School and its Clinical Director. For the last five years he has been directly involved with creating and running the Rebecca School in Manhattan, the world’s largest school for children with neurodevelopmental disorders of relating and communicating, using the Developmental, Individual Differerence, Relationship-based (DIR) Model.
He has evaluated hundreds of children from the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-base perspective, having been mentored by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, the late creator of the DIR model. Dr. Tippy also has a large clinical practice in Oyster Bay, New York. He has two children and lives on Long Island with his wife and daughter.
Dr. Gil Tippy’s Blog
Buy Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals here.
Web site here.