This book is an easy to read introduction to the basics of autism. It is aimed at adoptive and foster families and therefore a lot of the second half discusses the complexities of attachment and trauma when combined with autism. Many autistic people have experienced trauma, so I believe the book is useful to a much wider audience than that which it targets.
The book begins by explaining autism in an easy to understand manner, which is more challenging than one might think as there are so many myths and unknowns when it comes to autism. Different people have different (and often very strong) views on the ontological nature of autism. Fictional children are used to illustrate points throughout the book which I enjoyed. It was another aspect which makes the book more accessible than many autism books. I like the use of illustrations throughout the book. In particular the balloons which were used to illustrate what is meant by the ‘spectrum’ worked well. The spectrum is often conceptualised as linear – from mild to severe – but the balloon illustrations and the written description help to demonstrate that the spectrum should be considered more like a 3d constellation where each autistic person has their own version which can change throughout their life.
The importance of an individual approach to supporting children is emphasised and there are many practical strategies for parents and carers to try. I was pleased to see a reasonable amount of information about supporting the child’s sensory needs as this area can sometimes be neglected, yet for some people it is one of the most disabling aspects of autism.
The authors demonstrate a good understanding of the controversies and politics around language such as words like ‘disorder’. However, they sit on the fence somewhat by using both identity first and person first language (e.g. ‘autistic child’ and ‘child with autism’). Whilst it is true that research shows there are many different language preferences amongst different autism communities, there is now a lot of evidence that autistic people, in the main, prefer the more positive identity first language (Kenny et al., 2016). I felt like an opportunity was missed to inform readers about the importance of listening to the autistic voice. With this in mind, sections or examples from autistic adults would have been an excellent addition, in particular those who have experience of adopting and fostering either as a child or foster carer.
Whilst the beginning of the book has general information about autism and how to support your child, the later chapters are more specific to adoptive and foster families with transitions, attachment and trauma covered in a similar accessible style with lots of practical advice.
Although this book is aimed at adoptive and foster families it would be suitable for all parents of autistic children.
Kenny, L., Hattersley, C., Molins, B., Buckley, C., Povey, C., & Pellicano, E. (2016). Which terms should be used to describe autism? Perspectives from the UK autism community. Autism, 20(4), 442,462.