This guide presents a framework for how young people on the autism spectrum can develop a sense of self and become fully integrated into society.
Cathy Dodge Smith (Autism Spectrum Disorder and Traumatic Incident Reduction, 2015), the founding president of the Davis Dyslexia and Autism Facilitators’ Association of Canada, has an autistic son and grandson. Ronald D. Davis, who struggled with dyslexia and autism into adulthood, drew on his experiences to develop the Davis Autism Approach Program in 2008. People with autism have problems with social relationships, communication skills, and repetitive behaviors, the author writes. They also perceive everyday phenomena as “Unusual Sensory Experiences,” as when a vacuum cleaner provokes a panic reaction. The Davis Autism Approach, led by a licensed facilitator, is conducted in one-week blocks and in three basic stages. First, patients must become oriented and stable—able to follow directions and learn through the senses. For the severely impaired, Davis prescribes a natural orientation inducing tool, which emits a regular “ting” sound to promote focus. A second step is identity development, fueled by the theories of Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget and focused on helping patients understand emotions, desires, and responsibilities. The program relies heavily on clever clay models that represent the self and others and their interactions to explain abstract concepts like cause and effect. The final step is social integration, which helps patients with listening, taking turns, and discerning what behavior is appropriate in different contexts. In this user-friendly guide, the author explains these steps and strategies in lucid prose, including plenty of case studies that show the approach in action. Her own son, Desmond Smith, who has autism and is now a Davis facilitator, recounts how he learned to adjust to life’s changes. The photographs of the clay models that he and Kelly shot make it easier for readers to picture how Davis’ ideas might be put into practice, and a final section of further case studies from patients and their parents is ample testimony to the program’s success. The key, the author believes, is that this system doesn’t command specific behaviors; instead, it teaches the reasoning behind them.
A well-presented, valuable resource for parents and educators.