There are more than half a million Americans under the age of twenty-one who are autistic. In the 1960s only one in 2,500 children was diagnosed as autistic, now it is one in 150. Autism has a wide range of intensity, which is why it is called the Spectrum. A person may have some or all of the various aspects of autism.
Asperger’s syndrome is sometimes called high-functioning autism, because these people often have superior mental abilities or abilities, much more than any normal person, but only in certain areas, such as math. While they may have incredible ability with math, they may have trouble crossing a street or using a knife and fork at the same time.
Some people on the spectrum have made wonderful advances in science, medicine, computers, due to their amazing mental abilities. Not everyone on the Spectrum is a brilliant scientist, but many of the great innovators have been people on the autism spectrum.
You may not have an autistic child or adolescent, but I think you might still find this book interesting. The next time you meet someone on the spectrum, you will better understand the difficulties they are having. You will be more empathic with others in society, whether you know the name of their condition or not.
Growing Up on the Spectrum is about helping children find ways to cope with their disabilities. These children and adolescents require extraordinary help to overcome their deficiencies. The most significant problem is in the area of communication. Spectrum kids don’t know how to make small talk, they don’t know when it’s their turn to talk, they don’t know when to stop talking, they don’t know how not to bore their audience with endless talk about their own obsessions, they don’t even know how to look at the person they are talking to. These problems, just a few of dozens, become obstacles on his path to adulthood.
Parents see little hope that their children will ever become independent adults who find careers, marry and have children. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Many teens on the spectrum learn to cope, but they need to be taught, encouraged, and helped. And this book leads the way.
The information needed to help them just begins to flow with books like this one. The authors are Claire, along with her teenage son who is on the spectrum, and Dr. Koegel. Together they have devised practical strategies to teach and encourage those on the spectrum to overcome their difficulties to the point where they can have partners, go to college, get a job, and have a family.
We know that these tasks are not easy for anyone! But for someone on the spectrum they are ten times more difficult. University is usually very difficult for them, because they have trouble finding their classes, taking notes while listening to a lecture (that’s doing two things at the same time). For someone on the spectrum, organizing their time, prioritizing their studies, dressing appropriately, maintaining hygiene, and learning how to communicate with peers is hard work.
Those on the autism spectrum often have higher than normal IQs. Their problem comes from the fact that they can only focus on one thing at a time, and sometimes that’s the wrong thing to do. Perhaps when trying to cross a busy street, they are reading each car’s license plate number, not just reading, perhaps memorizing them or making up reverse acronyms. They have difficulty seeing the big picture, becoming absorbed in the details. Their sense of smell, hearing, and touch are often more sensitive than normal, so things like flickering fluorescent lights cause them confusion.
Growing Up on the Spectrum is easy to read, easy to understand, introduces the problems kids on the spectrum have, and provides ways to overcome these problems, particularly for teens going to high school, college, or starting a career.
What I like about this book is the way you get three points of view, the mother of an autistic teenager, the teenager’s point of view, and the professional point of view of the medical specialist. Added together, you get a good picture of the particular problem and solution.
“If you’re dreading carpooling because your child is having trouble having a proper conversation, try to put up with it by remembering that this is your chance to learn ways to help. Pay attention to what your child’s peers are talking about, how they start the conversation, what kind of questions they ask, etc., and then work on those areas with your own child. I would suggest starting to work on them at home (prep) first and then making suggestions to them right before you pick up your classmates….”