You’re the parents of a newly diagnosed child with autism. How do you feel? Helpless, hopeless and overwhelmed… and you are worried about every aspect of raising a child on the autism spectrum. Where do you turn to for information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? What you already know about autism keeps popping up in your mind; how much of it is reliable? How can you sift through the millions of books, blogs, programs, treatment options and studies on the topic? What or who can you believe? One place to start is with Jonathan Alderson’s book, Challenging the Myths of Autism: Unlock New Possibilities and Hope. Why? Alderson’s book is crammed with heartwarming stories and useful information.
About the Author
Jonathan Alderson is a reliable source. He completed his Masters of Education at Harvard University. He has a private educational consulting practice in South-western Ontario, working primarily as an autism treatment specialist. Read our interview with Jonathan Alderson Ed.M here.
He was the Curriculum Specialist Coordinator with Teach for America in Houston, Texas, and did an internship with the Harvard Family Research Project. After completing an undergraduate degree in developmental and educational psychology at the University of Western Ontario, and a year at the Sorbonne University in Paris, Jonathan published his honors thesis in the Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching.
He completed a three-year certification training at the Autism Treatment Center of America, which included over 1,500 hours of one-to-one floor time with autistic children. He then worked as Administrator in the center’s Son-Rise Program in Massachusetts and as a senior family trainer for eight years. This was followed by a year in London, England, providing support to families in various European countries.
Mr. Alderson has worked internationally, giving seminars and training workshops in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Mexico. For over 20 years, the author has dedicated himself to learning about ASD by reading, attending conferences on behavioural interventions and biomedical treatments. He has worked with thousands of families and spent hours upon hours in therapy sessions with children on the autism spectrum. He writes, “Through the din of debates about genes and vaccines I think we sometimes forget that we are talking about real people, a population with a wide range of strengths and challenges and personalities. How we talk about people with autism and how we characterize them impacts how we treat them.”
I am sure as parents read this book and about the work the author does with autistic children they are hoping their own child’s teachers or health care professionals are reading it also!
About the Book
Congratulations to Jonathan Alderson! JPX Media Group announced the winners and finalists of THE 2012 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (IBA) on May 23, 2012 and Challenging the Myths of Autism: Unlock New Possibilities and Hope is the winner for the Parent Resource Category.
Other reasons why readers can rely on Challenging the Myths of Autism is that Jonathan Alderson has made extensive research which he documents with numerous end notes and twelve pages of sources, listing books, lectures, presentations, hearings, and websites.
In this book, Jonathan examines seven stereotypical characterizations or “myths of autism”. He has a chapter on each of these perennially inaccurate descriptions. Each chapter explains the origins of the seven myths and discusses the evidence refuting them. The author invites the reader to put aside their preconceived notions of autism which can mislead parents, therapists, and the general public to underestimate the potential of children with autism.
About the Myths of Autism and a Few Excerpts
#1: The Myth of Affection, Children with Autism Can’t Share Affection
“…there is a long list of physical health problems associated with autism…chronic bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux can make a child moody, frustrated, irritable, and sap her energy. When we don’t feel well, we don’t feel social.”
#2: The Myth of Ritual, Repetitious Behaviours (Stims) are Bad and Should Be Stopped
“Start with the belief that a repetitive and restricted ritual has a purpose… repetitive behaviors can be the bridge to insights, to understanding, and to accepting difference. We need to learn more about their nature and cause.”
#3: The Myth of Socialization, Children with Autism Should Be Pushed to Socialize as Early as Possible “Ensure social-learning behaviors like observing, imitating, and social motivation, among other skills, are in place… to have smoother transitions into larger social groups, more enjoyment, and greater social success. Children typically acquire social skills in an order that builds one upon the next. Many readers will appreciate the section in this chapter about inclusive classrooms and if they are the right environment for all students with autism all the time. Some parents, therapists and teachers feel that many mainstream classrooms do not provide the environment, accommodations and supports many autistic students require and could receive in another type of classroom or in a private or home-based program. If an inclusive classroom with lots of students is so overwhelming that a person with ASD shuts down and has no chance to reach his potential the author calls it an “isolating environment” not “inclusive”.
#4: The Myth of Evidence, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Is the Only Evidence-Based Treatment for Autism “Combining different types of strategies affords more choices for the individual learning styles and needs of people with autism.”
#5: The Myth of IQ, Most Children with Autism Have Mental Retardation “…we can acknowledge the diversity of thinking skills and different types of intelligence in the autistic population and, with acceptance and patience support them to let their individual intelligences shine.” The topic of the validity and reliabilty of IQ tests for children with autism is well dealt with. If accommodations and modifications are rarely made when administering these tests to children with autism and they are given in unfamiliar buildings or rooms, by professionals who are strangers, with materials and procedures that are new and different all this is definately going to impact the IQ scores.
#6: The Myth of the 5-Year “Window”, Children with Autism Lose Their Chance to Change Once They Turn Five “People with autism of all ages are capable of making significant progress through the lifespan… Yes, early intervention is extremely important but parents and educators need to be informed on the benefits of intensive education past age five as well.”
#7: The Myth of Imagination, Children with Autism Lack Imagination and Creativity “Schools, education programs, and treatment centres could reconsider their curriculum and programming for students with autism. Are age-appropriate amounts of time and opportunity to imagine, pretend play, and be creative provided? Oftentimes, intensive behaviour interventions are heavily focused on super-structured rote learning tasks with little time for exploration and creativity.”
From the excerpts you can see that Challenging the Myths of Autism is easy to understand and should be read by parents, educators, friends, therapists, and medical professionals who work with individual on the autism spectrum. The nine page index makes this a book you can refer to often.
The myths of autism cloud our understanding, limit our compassion, and lead to bad decisions and grave consequences.
My favorite feature is Jonathan Alderson’s writing style. While reading his book it feels you are having a conversation with a friend. He expertly weaves real-life stories of autistic children he has worked with to make his point. Often he will bring up that same child in another section of the book. Alderson often supports his ideas with quotes from other authors or researchers. Sprinkled in each chapter are quotes in larger, grey font. Often he calls the reader to action with his sub-headings, “What Teachers and Schools Can Do Differently” or “What You Can Do”.
In his Epilogue, Alderson tells the story of Reginald Latson, a nine-teen year old diagnosed with Asperger’s, who was arrested and sentenced to ten and a half years in prison because the judge, most likely, did not take into account Latson’s Asperger diagnosis. Jonathan Alderson uses this story to drive the point home that, “…the myths of autism cloud our understanding, limit our compassion, and lead to bad decisions and grave consequences.”
Buy the book here:
Follow Jonathan Alderson:
Facebook page of Challenging the Myths of Autism