A remarkable new approach to autism.
The key to successfully connecting with and helping children with autism is deceptively simple: don’t make assumptions, ask them questions about their feelings and behavior, listen closely to their responses, and try to understand the reasoning behind their actions. A little bit of empathy and respect goes a long way. The traditional methods of understanding and treating autism may be more harmful than we thought, argues leading autism expert Prizant (co-author: The SCERTS Model, 2005, etc.). Attempts to “normalize” children or to expect them to understand complex social and moral nuances may, in fact, prove detrimental to their happiness and impede their abilities to interact with others. Rather than suffering from an intellectual disability, the author writes, these children struggle with what he calls a “disability of trust.” From their perspective, adults often make statements that are not strictly true or that omit information that most of us take for granted but that a child with autism perceives as vital. Many conflicts that arise may be caused by this type of “misunderstanding,” in which the rules, especially social ones, are not outlined in comprehensive detail. Backed by cogent, compassionate anecdotes drawn from his many years in the field, Prizant also points out that many of the behaviors that people without autism may label as odd—like echolalia—stem from a child’s attempt to cope with a stressful situation, such as overstimulation or frustration at not being able to communicate their feelings or needs. Instead of dismissing these “regulating” behaviors as weird or even unacceptable, adults should embrace them as constructive methods by which children can return to homeostasis. By admitting, “it’s not you, it’s me,” we can reorient the way we perceive and embrace people with autism, helping them live joyous, meaningful lives. As the author wisely notes, we must embrace their uniquely human experience, not subvert it.
A truly impactful, necessary book.