Depot Book Reviews


I've written short reviews of various books that I've read since Tara's diagnosis. I hope you'll find them useful.

Autistic Autobiographies

Emergence: Labeled Autistic
Temple Grandin with Margaret M. Scariano
Thinking in Pictures
Temple Grandin

I can't say enough about these two books. Temple is a recovering 48 year old autistic with a Ph.D. in Animal Science. She is an Associate Professor at my almamater Colorado State University. She is a world renowned expert in the design of humane animal handling equipment. She is also an outspoken authority on Autism. In her first book, Emergence, Temple concentrates on her early years as a child going through adolescence and through college. It covers in detail the traumas that she experienced and the methods and people that helped her cope. In her second book, Thinking in Pictures, she describes the differences in her perception that make her special and how they've helped her get where she is. She also refers to the experiences that other autistics have communicated to her since she's become active in the Autism community.
We purchased these books at the 1995 Pennsylvania State Autism Conference where Temple Grandin was a keynote speaker. I highly recommend that parents see one of her presentations and read her books, she is a feisty woman that really helped raise our hopes for our daughter. These books offer us a window into the autistic mind.

There's a Boy in Here
Judy and Sean Barron

Judy and Sean share their experience as mother and son on their struggle with Autism. Judy describes events that have occurred in raising Sean and he provides commentary on those events from his point of view. Sean had extreme behavioral problems, putting his family through horrible trials. Sean has been habilitated to the point where he could help write this book and live independently.
This was one of the books recommended by our Developmental Pediatrician upon diagnosing Tara. It is the first book I read, and it did give us hope but also scared us due to Judy's suffering.
Update: I have now met Judy Barron since she recently moved to our area. Sean is now fully independent and in all respects seams to have no lingering autistic traits. Judy and her husband Ron attribute this to Sean's determination to change everyting that made him autistic. I've now reread this book and there are many things that scare me more than they did the first time. This is due to the fact that my daughter has developed many of the negative traits that Sean had displayed at her age. I recommend this book to parents but not as a first book.

Soon Will Come the Light, A View from Inside the Autism Puzzle
Thomas A. McKean
Revised

Thomas McKean is an autistic adult who has been on the ASA Board of Directors. I was introduced to Thomas a few years ago on the IRC #Autism channel. IRC is a very poor communication medium for people who have problems that involve the ability to focus attention. That is the light in which I read this book.
The introductions include fluff from one of his closest friends so I was worried that they would set the tone for the book. Fortunately this book is written very well and is a good source of insight into Thomas' autistic symptoms. Not all people with autism display the same symptoms and Thomas is quick to point this out. He is intelligent but learns better on his own than in the standard classroom environment. Thomas was aparently a very difficult child. He refers to making his parents lives a living hell and boasts about how good he was at it. Shortly after his initial diagnosis of autism, which he wasn't aware of, starting at the age of nearly 15 Thomas spent 3 years in an institution. This was still a quite common practice in 1980. His description of that place is fairly vivid. Since this was a significantly impresionable period of his life, Thomas refers to it frequently in the first 90 pages of text. He wasn't rediagnosed with autism and informed of it until after he left the institution which he rightly blames on the doctors who worked on him up to that point. Thomas discusses his perceptions and opinions on facets of autism and various treatments.
Since Thomas likes to write poetry, as well as composing songs, the last 60 pages are his poems. Sorry, I'm not into poetry, so I will not comment on that portion of the book.
The book was much better than I expected at the outset. If you are reading autobiographies you should read this book if you get a chance.

Biographies by Parents

Let Me Hear Your Voice
Catherine Maurice

Catherine Maurice recounts her struggle to bring her daughter then her son out of an autistic haze via Lovaas' methods. Catherine also used Holding Therapy with her daughter. She claims that her children have been completely "cured", indistinguishable from their peers.
This was one of the books recommended by our Developmental Pediatrician upon diagnosing Tara It is definitely a positively written book. The thing that impressed me the most was the level of effort and number of hours that went into the Behavior Modification Therapy.

The Sound of a Miracle, A Child's Triumph over Autism
Annabel Stehli

Annabel tells her story of her daughter Georgie's autistic problems and the loss of her younger daughter Dotsie, to Leukemia. Compounding these difficulties is her split with Georgie's father and involvement with Christian Science. Annabel remarries to Peter Stehli and they are transferred to Switzerland where she finds out about Dr. Guy Berard in France. Georgie receives Auditory Integration Training (AIT) from Dr. Berard and has remarkable results. The remainder of the book deals with the struggles to obtain an education unlimited by Georgie's special education and institutional history. Georgie graduates magna cum laude in art school going on to grad school.
This book ends on a high note but takes a long painful trip to get there. It is a story of faith, perseverance and a miracle.
Annabel Stehli was another speaker at the 1995 Pennsylvania State Autism Conference. Her presentation was more of an opportunity to pitch her new book but had the effect on selling this one too. She is on a crusade to promote AIT and is very good at it. Georgie has now graduated from grad school, is in her 30's, is married and working as an artist.

Dancing in the Rain
Edited by Annabel Stehli

This is a collection of 22 significant success stories by mothers of children with various developmental disabilities, primarily PDD/Autism. Each one of the subjects of these stories has some success attributed to AIT. The subjects range in age from 2 1/2 to 29 with problems as diverse as fetal alcohol syndrome.
This book is a obvious attempt to sell AIT. It is nice to read a collection of successes, my mother-in-law loved it because it was one success right after another.
Annabel stated that the publisher was concerned that these stories didn't stress AIT enough and would like Annabel to rewrite some of them. Annabel says that she couldn't bring herself to do that to these mothers. As evidence one of the stories gives AIT only passing mention and credit for building on the success of her discrete trials program.

Laughing & Loving with Autism
Compiled by R. Wayne Gilpin

This book was recommended to me a couple of years back by the father of an autistic child. Upon spotting it at the PA State Autism Conference (Oct 15, 1998) I decided to pick it up and read it over the next 2 days. It is a collection of anecdotes from several parents and siblings of individuals with autism.
These fall into the general categories of "Autistic kids say and do the most amazing things" and "Autistic misinterpretation of the English language". If you've been around people with autism for a while you'll recognize many of these little stories as familiar. Although the book is light reading, I can't say that I found much humor in it. I read incident after incedent that highlited the misinterpretation of the world around them. I kept visualizing my daughter in thier place and how I would have reacted. At this point in time I guess I don't see much humor in autism.
The last 20% of the book is a chapter titled Poignant which I did appreciate. This is a section of little stories about how special the autistic child has made the lives of these families.

Parents' Guides

Children with Autism, A Parents' Guide
Edited by Michael D. Powers, Psy.D.

Even though this book is slightly dated it is very helpful the parent of an autistic child. It covers topics from "What is Autism", and "Adjusting to Your Child's Diagnosis", through "Legal Rights and Hurdles" and "Adults with Autism". This book was written with an optimistic attitude due to the rapidly evolving understanding of the brain.

A Parent's Guide to Autism
Charles A. Hart

Although this book is more up-to-date than the Powers book it does not share the same optimism. Mr. Hart is both the father and brother of autistics. In this book he expresses his opinions of a few of the treatments and theories that are covered. He considers any recovery from Autism indicates probable improper diagnosis. Mr. Hart dismisses all nutritional/dietary treatments for Autism as unworthy of consideration due to insufficient scientific study. The treatments favored by the author are Sensory Integration Therapy, Auditory Integration Training (AIT), Communication Therapy and Facilitated Communication (FC), even though AIT and FC had little scientific study behind them at the time this book was written. The author attacks the Doman-Delacato Patterning Program citing books by William Christopher and Berneen Bratt. I personally haven't read these books but have been informed that the Christophers' book does not oppose that program in any way.
This book provides a good list of information sources such as organizations, books and newsletters, with comments in the final chapter.
This book was recommended by Tara's Developmental Pediatrician on our second visit. It took me several months to read this book and I read several other books while reading this one. The author presents a rather cold and dispassionate look at Autism such as one would expect from a medical journal. Maybe that's why the Developmental Pediatrician liked it so much.

General Reference

Autism: Explaining the Enigma
Uta Frith

Frith starts this book with an examination of various case histories and popular myths based in history. Most if these cases predate the 1944 creation of the label Autism. These cases are examined for Autistic like symptoms and for symptoms peculiar to Autism. Frith then discussed the likelihood of the individual cases being actually Autistic. A search for the cause of Autism is made using both a neurologic approach and a psycologic approach, based on both her research and that of many others. Frith presents a hypothesis that the symptoms of Autism are due to the a decreased inherent tendency toward coherence. As an example, this tendency allows the typical person to comprehend a sentence with missing or misspelled words. Many features of Autistic performance in IQ tests, both successes and failures are examined against this hypothesis. Frith gets into communication problems, empathy, and theory of mind. One of the problems is a long term failure to recognize that others may not know what they know. Most children outgrow this by the age of 4 years. This book is fairly technical in nature but is very readable considering how complex this subject can be. I recommend this book to all who work with Autistic students, it goes a long way to explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the Autistic mind. The understanding developed may help teachers to develop better methods for getting concepts across to their Autistic subjects.

The World of the Autistic Child
Bryna Siegel

This book was recommended to me by several people. I finally finished this book, it took me nearly a year due to the fact that many of the chapters don't apply to my situation yet and I've been very busy. The book was written and organized in a way that the reader can pick and choose which chapters to read based on the things that concern them. It is an excellent book for parents of recently diagnosed children or others new to the world of Autism and PDD. This is the author's stated purpose for writing this book and she has done a nice job. She seems to have a good handle on how parents react to the diagnosis and the basis for their feelings. She has extensive experience in the field of diagnosing and treating Autistic children and uses tidbits from her work to illustrate points. Dr. Siegel spends a lot of time addressing matters of concern to the family of a child diagnosed with Autism/PDD. She also goes through selecting and advocating for appropriate services and choosing the best classroom setting. Dr. Siegel supports the use of Applied Behavior Analysis for instructing Autistic children. She also gives a word of caution about the use of "unscientific" therapies.

Autism: Handle with Care
Gail Gillingham

Some one recommended that I read this book via email as a response to this page. Gail was the first speaker at the 1996 PA State Autism Conference in Scranton on November 1st. Since we had last minute baby-sitting problems we arrived halfway through her presentation. Because it was the only book on sale at the conference that I hadn't read and still applied to our daughter I decided to buy it despite the $24.95 charge for a 100 page paperback.
Gail's basic premise is that Autism Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that are a direct result of coping with hyper acute senses. She states that the opposite end of the spectrum, hypo sensitivity is a symptom of flooding the body with endorphins via stimming to cause the sensory system to shut down from overload. Gail devotes a chapter to each of the senses; touch, hearing, vision, smell & taste describing the impact of hyper sensitivity and giving anecdotal evidence.
Gail's preferred treatment seams to be to protect the individual from environments that would cause stress to the senses to which he is sensitive. Remove distractions from walls, avoid fluorescent lighting, speak at just above a whisper, and avoid perfumes etc. She then goes on to explain that the autistic lack of social interaction is due in large part to the child's avoidance of overly stressful stimulation. This can be bypassed if the environment is kept "safe" for the child and interactions kept short in the beginning to avoid over stimulation.
Gail feels that the reason that most autistics perform poorly on IQ tests are that the tests are typically designed for communicative individuals and some of the testing strategies that she's seen create a bias against typical reactions of higher functioning autistic individuals. I've felt this way for awhile due to autistic communication limits but I've never seen direct examples before.
Toward the end of her book Gail devotes a chapter to evaluating various therapies like AIT, FC, SI, Behavior Modification, Vitamins, Diet and so on. In the end she feels that the greatest amount of progress will be due to research into the views of autism given to us by newly communicative autistic individuals.
Up to The Autism Depot.
Last Modified: December 6 1996
rjd