I just finished reading Autism in the Family: Caring and Coping Together by Robert Naseef Ph.D. and I am thankful that Brookes Publishing Co. sent me this book to review. Christina (Lukenich) Davis, Marketing Manager, was right on how well the author shares personal and professional insights in a warm, practical, and down-to-earth guide on parenting a child on the spectrum from birth to adulthood.
Autism in the Family is about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), about the individuals who are on the spectrum and about those who care for and love these individuals. Most important and one of its unique features is that the author helps the parents deal with their own feelings, shows them how to cope and that there is hope. It helps parents provide the best support for their child with autism and ensures that the whole family’s needs are met.
Dr. Naseef writes that families are resilient, and with support and effective intervention, some sense of order and predictability can be restored to their lives and the overpowering sense of helplessness and powerlessness alleviated. Autism in the Family: Caring and Coping Together is a resource all parents of children with serious special needs should have.
Autism in the Family is especially for fathers of autistic children who seem to be left out in many books about autism. It is for siblings, family, friends, teachers, and professionals who are also important travelling companions on this difficult journey of raising an autistic child to adulthood. So many will benefit from Dr. Naseef’s touching account of how he felt while raising his son who has profound autism to the age of 33 when he ends his book.
Dr Naseef writes at the start of his book:”My focus in this book is this lifelong process of taking care of everyone in the family after a diagnosis of autism. My goal is to integrate my personal experiences, clinical expertise, and knowledge of research and practice to speak to families in similar circumstances to mine. My work feels like a success every time I can empower parents by helping them understand their thoughts and feelings, find humor in their situation, and go forward loving their child and helping him or her grow.” Page 7
About the Book
Autism in the Family: Caring and Coping Together is beautifully written by a father and professional who wants to tell his story, give his advice, and make a difference in the lives of other individuals. He lays his soul bare and touches the reader to the core. Reading page after page I was stunned by his frank passages that painted a vivid picture of his son growing up and the challenges his son Tariq and his family faced. The author wants this book to be the book he hoped he had had when his son was diagnosed with autism. I am sure it is!
Dr. Naseef says his book is the story of how he was force to change himself and embrace his son as he is. We learn that Tariq taught him the meaning of unconditional love and that dreams are deferred and some dreams are remade. None of it was easy and even now he wonders what might have it been IF: “If only he did not have autism. If only he could speak and read and write. If only he understood danger. If only he slept safely through the night. If only he was not a constant threat to run away.” Readers follow this father’s agonizing decision of placing their child at the Kanner Center of the Devereux Foundation where he went to school and resided because of his high level of disability that required around-the-clock care.
Dr. Naseef covers most parenting topics giving down-to-earth advice how to tackle the most challenging situations. Case studies and his personal stories show you others find it difficult too and the author has practical suggestions on how to cope, how to accept, and how to love your child in the moment. Some topics covered:
- Learning to cope after the diagnosis.
- Letting go and coming to grips with what you can or cannot change.
- Sorting your feelings in the agonizing process of acceptance.
- Understanding what your child’s behavior means.
- Making basic daily routines easier: eating, sleeping, toileting.
- Dealing with meltdowns, medications, wandering, respite, residential care, and your own stress.
- Getting Early Intervention, choosing the right schools, teaching social skills, bullying.
- Telling your child about the diagnosis, about the changes brought on by puberty, about hygiene.
- Planning for life after high school, self-advocacy.
- Facing the future and financial planning.
Finally someone tells parents that hard work does NOT solve every problem. What works for some children will not work with others as individuals with autism vary with their symptoms and their severity. Anger about your situation may give you great energy to change things but it can also lead to feelings of isolation because you feel no one can understand. Anger can also eat people up inside. The chapter, The Emotional Journey: From Lost Dreams and Chronic Stress to Acceptance helps you let go feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, depression, …
Excerpts page 23
The author describes a situation, often gives examples with a case study, and then he has strategies to learn to cope and go on.
It is hard to feel like a good parent when your child is just not an average kid. Energy and hope are in short supply. Many people report a feeling of hollowness, headaches, disturbed sleep, eating problems, and other physical symptoms. Self-confidence may be shot. The parent may feel physically or mentally drained and be unable or unwilling to perform even routine tasks. There may be little interest in activities that previously brought pleasure; there may be aches, pains, fatigue, poor digestion, or too much or too little sleep. When these symptoms are severe or prolonged, the parent may be experiencing clinical depression—a mood disorder that calls for professional help…
Beth told me about periodic bouts with overwhelming sadness. She would burst into tears after her son Darren got on the bus to go to kindergarden. It was very painful for her to watch him standing on the edge of the playground not knowing how to join in….
In therapy, Beth learned to acknowledge those feelings instead of trying to push them away. By being kind to herself about how low she felt and just letting it wash over her, she was able to gradually feel refreshed.
Features of the Book
- Pertinent quotes to start each chapter. One of my favorites, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.” – Helen Keller
- Descriptive chapter titles, “Chapter 9 –Ordinary Couples, Challenged Relationships: Another Developmental Process
- The letter size is rather small but to break up the text there are numerous subtitles, black and white photos with captions, and bulleted lists.
- To support his content and give resources to his readers, the author has statistics and he often quotes other authors or researchers. We have already reviewed some of the books and resources he mentions:
- Just Give Him the Whale by Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz
- Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm
- Nineteen pages of reference and resources!
- A well written, organized, detailed index with headings and subheadings.
- One of the best reasons to read this book is to replenish your tired batteries. Find comfort that others have some of the same challenges you have and find hope in Dr. Naseef’s caring and compassionate words.
Throughout the book, Dr. Naseef prods you along acknowledging what you are doing is difficult but motivates the reader to go on at every turn of the page:
“It is said that there is strength in numbers, and for the sake of a humane society as well as the autism community it is essential that we use our strength to secure a meaningful future for our families as well as our children with autism. Although the social and emotional development of young people with ASD may be delayed, there is strong scientific evidence that it continues in adulthood. With support, it is reasonable to expect continued slow, steady progress. Page 215
Robert Naseef is a partner in an independent psychology practice, Alternate Choices, with his wife, Cindy N. Ariel, Ph.D., who is also a psychologist. His first book, Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles and Rewards of Parenting a Child with a Disability, has received international recognition. He has lectured internationally and appeared on radio and television. He is the coeditor of Voices from the Spectrum: Parents, Grandparents, Siblings, People with Autism, and Professionals Share Their Wisdom (2006). Living Along the Autism Spectrum (2009) is a DVD which features him along with Stephen Shore and Dan Gottlieb.
As the father of an adult child with autism, Robert’s specialty is working with families of children with autism and other special needs. Through his experiences as a parent and as a professional, Robert relates well to both audiences and is a sought after speaker around the country. His works have been published in scholarly journals and other publications. He has a special interest and expertise in the psychology of men and fatherhood.
In 2008, Robert was honored by Variety the Children’s Charity for his outstanding contributions over the past 20 years to the autism community. Robert can be contacted at RNaseef@alternativechoices.com, and his blogs can be found on the Alternative Choices Facebook page. He welcomes reactions to this book and is available to make presentations at conferences and in-service trainings.
Read Special Needs Book Review interview with Dr. Robert Naseef.