Aspertools, A Graph Review

Aspertools: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Neurodiversity 

by  Harold Reitman. MD                                              Graph Review levels 55-65

with Pari Fizzano and Rebecca Reitman

Published Souvenir Press      £10. Paperback.    978 028564364 2

Foreword by Gordon Marino (Prof. of Philosophy)

Followed by  Acknowledgments, Preface and Introduction

 

Main book:     23 chapters on assorted themes that all have meaning to anyone involved with Aspergers and ASD, in their many degrees (neuro diversity).  Indeed much can be taken from these chapters for other disabilities of a normal (neurotypical) personality  to make live richer, understandable and sustainable for all.   Which is a point the author is positive in making.

Over the whole of humanity you can  take comfort that not one brain will be/work like another.    As the cover quote from Rebecca Reitman beautifully puts it:  “Brains are like snowflakes – no two are the same.”

(The closest you may get, briefly, is a small percentage of identical twins….. if you need be pedantic!”)

To the English reader the Acknowledgements may seem a little over the top but bear with it as it helps fill in the background.  The Preface moves swiftly into his (the author) place in life and their daughter, Rebecca and her progress through school and college as a girl with Aspergers (not diagnosed until late).    Or ‘Aspie’ as a term that Dr. Reitman uses all through the book.  New  readers may find this term a little odd but after a short while it sits more comfortably and perhaps as an endearing shorthand to be picked up.

Once you hit the ‘Introduction’ the way is clear.  Explanations for the book and relevance of ‘Aspie’ lead you straight into the chapters, from which we can all learn aspects of others, ourselves and some ‘tools’ to cope where needed.  He explains the basic format of each chapter but allows there are some slight variations.

I suppose I ought to name all the 23 chapters.    No, don’t think so, just to say they are all relevent as individual sections though, unsurprisingly, there are similarities and overlaps in the contents.

The earliest points are about sensory over sensitivity that many ‘Aspies’ have in any or all of the senses:  sight, smell, taste, touch,  and all the possibilities of causing anxiety up to ‘meltdown’.  Any of these may occur in small-scale social or large, stadium size, occasions.

A key element is observation of the potential difficulties and pre-planning for a coping strategy which offers least anxiety.  Every individual needs to have plans of this nature for some events in their life.  ‘Aspies’ need to be helped to cope in an appropriate and calming fashion on a more basic and frequent level.

Observe and understand the person you care for, including yourself, and recognise the needs for adjustments in coping with the requirements of living.

This book starts each chapter with the ‘Helpful Hint’ and then offers a circumstance of a particular difficulty with the suggested actions explained and then a few words of additional comment from Rebecca.

I found having the advice given and it followed by the problem, then the solving, a more positive method of writing.  Seeing the answer first enables you to understand the problem as you read through. After the Helpful Hint is the ‘Principle’ then Rebecca, often a section written from the experience of herself as an ‘Aspie’ and finally, specifically defined ‘Action Plan’.

What starts off as a seemingly slow read has turned into a fascinating and stimulating collection of situations, results, advice and plans.  The author is careful to keep the reader aware that the examples he gives are one/some of many variations across the spectrum.

His key points are to observe the difficulties of the individual; the cause of difficulties in the surroundings and understand those triggers. To help cope with  anxiety-causing dilemmas in an appropriate way and use all techniques that you find work. And this book points the way to many.   Amongst them:  keep calm, establish routines that are comfortable, make change (if necessary)  in small steps and pre-warn of them, put yourself in their mind to see effects, encourage social activity and explain social conversation.

This covers a few chapters, there are numerous others and they often have similar/ overlapping suggestions. The ‘tips’ from Rebecca are always interesting and balance the ‘experts’ view with her own Asperger’s understanding.

The book is American in origination and the organisations mentioned are not available in this country, except via internet, I assume, but there are many organisations of national, regional and local focus in the UK.    Autism UK and Autism Independant UK are but two and a search of the internet should produce many useful groups.

This book is an easy ‘reader’ for parents, Teaching Assistants, training and NQTs  whether in mainstream or specialist education situations.  Those new to the subject will find it very useful, others less new are bound to find useful information or reminders of good practice.

For a more in depth understanding of autism spectrum disorder  is recommended:  Uniquely Human,  by Barry Prizant.

Also published by Souvenir Press is ‘Uniquely Human’ by Barry Prizant, also reviewed on this site.

Books available, post free (for UK) at time of writing from:   http://www.bookseducation.co.uk/ 

 

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A Graph Review of: A Quick Guide to Special Needs and Disabilities

A Graph Review of:   A Quick Guide to Special Needs and Disabilities

author:     Bob Bates         Sage Publishing    Nov 2016   charlie-and-dream-graph-50-56

Paperback        £19.99.       9781473 97974 1

 

A good quality guide and reference work offering information and positive action plus sensible points for further detailed follow-up.

Available via:  www.BooksEducation.co.uk.                 and other bookstores.

special needs and disabils coverAs the title says, here is a quick (reading) guide to  helping you be confident in recognising many disabilities and confirming those you know, in consistent, brief descriptions of the key elements to look for and techniques to help deal with in the classroom or other situations.   The author introduces the techniques as suggestions of methods that have been positive whilst pointing out that variations  as well as differing ones may  also be beneficial.   He quotes case studies of children and also several famous people who have been willing to open their ‘disabilities’ to view in order to show  it as part of their character and not always a draw-back when their positives can be engaged; that no-one should be defined purely by the difficulties they have to overcome.

As usual there is an index; plus a note on the author and a useful glossary at the start followed by a few pages on how to ‘use the book’.   The book itself is in four sections, the main one being the brief descriptions followed by key support strategies of 65 areas of special needs of varying physical, mental and social areas.  With suggested text or web sites for additional follow-up.

The final section is related to strategies for children, parents, teachers and SENCOs and a basic run-through of various therapies that are currently found to be effective. Throughout and as a final thought, the author says how aware he is that there is much more available on these and more ‘needs’ that could not be included in the book.

I am not going to list the inclusions but note the wide ranging from first: ‘Allergies’ to the final  ‘Young Offender’.  Again the author, Bob Bates, makes the comment that the pointers and strategies are frequently as applicable to adults as young or older children.  His view, as are many others: that the strategies should fit the ‘child’.

Initially I found the use of double-page spread confusing where a new subject started mid-page and you had to recognise that the heavy, broken line across the two open pages was a boundary marker for change of subject.  This is a signal to stop at the broken line on the left-hand page and switch back to the top of the right page and read down again to the broken line.  Reaching that is the end of the subject and you switch back to the right-hand page below the broken line and repeat moving across to below the broken line on right-hand page again.

Maybe I should not have written this comment; it reads worse than it actually is.  However, it did annoy me a little.  Maybe the format of the book needed this design, or for me, maybe not.

Despite this anomaly in design, the content seems remarkably clear, useful and positive as  starting points in so many differing situations.  A useful book that is extremely readable and easy to dip into or refer to whenever the need arises.

Too Afraid to Cry: Windham Campbell Prize 2017

Too Afraid to Cry;     A memoir in prose and verse    

by     Ali Cobby Eckermann

Published by Ilura Press.

978 192132524 3         Paperback

Recently announced as a  winner of the Australian 2017 Windham Campbell prize for poetry.

Each year two prize winners in each category of poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction;  in its fifth year each winner receives US$165,000.

Link:   www.windhamcampbell.org.

A Graph Review:  average of 70 all through with touches of more for emotional connections!

A memoir but listed as poetry.

She has five other collections of poetry in print.

the book is series of prose sketches from the early childhood of Ali Cobby Eckermann interspersed with almost haunted verse and through teenage to adulthood and closing with a celebration of family.  As an aboriginal baby she was among the many forcibly taken from her mother soon after birth as part of Australian social policy of the time. She was adopted into a German Lutheran farming family with children, where she was loved, as was another adopted child.

However  with growing awareness of being different in a family of differing skin tones, and being subjected to various levels of abuses outside the family situation she developed assorted emotional problems and addictions as she grew to adulthood.   Her writing is beautifully simple, descriptive and at times lyrical yet often fearsomely matter-of-fact.  By jumping from scene to scene we watch the events through her eyes and begin to be informed of the abuses she suffers and the complications they set in train.  Time and tensions move on. Throughout she does maintain some friendships and family albeit tenuously at times.

The poem ‘Black‘  offers a step-change affirming her ‘Self’.   Returning to the brief ‘chapters’  of prose, where life goes on and bullying is amplified, she finds a form of relief in friendships with other adopted and non-adopted indigenous people and families but with an evermore self-destructive life style.  Her writing style throughout continues as simple and matter-of-fact in telling her tale.

Maybe at her lowest point in the story, halfway-ish through the book, there is a subtle change in outlook.  She reports, still concisely, of feeling connections with ‘the earth’, elements of scenery around her and of a bigger emotion as the landscape expands into the wilderness she travels through. Perhaps a degree of comfort from the expanse and lifestyle.  Reading this section, of her growing awareness, created a surprising feeling of empathy on that connection.  From here the style of blunt and non-critical writing continues while her life improves and collapses episodically.

The writer begins to describe scenery as it infiltrates into her.  She is, almost unknowingly, absorbing her heritage of ageless culture and wisdom.   A smooth and subtle change while her language is still beautifully simple.  (I say simple.  I suppose I really mean excised of all unnecessary words.  If only I could write like that!!)

Blame is never considered by Ali but the reader surely can.  The story may read as a philosophy of: ‘life happens’ but the reasons why need to be addressed, especially the ‘happenings’ of now.  They may have been but Social Engineering for good or ill does have serious consequences in countless forms, mostly, it seems against women and children.   There, I’ve gone off-track and have only the direct result of reading this book to thank.   Yes, it is of a specific person but many aspects of her story are not only of the indigenous Australian but should resonate around the world in support of all who are nudged or beaten to the peripheries of society.

Ultimately this is a personal story of a baby, a child growing into adulthood and surviving a system of abuse and almost self-destruction to discover herself, her blood family, heritage and her own landscape.  A woman who has finally become whole.     Ali Cobby Eckermann’s book deserves international recognition.

This is one to recommend to all your friends and everyone else.

Coping with Crisis: A Graph Review

Coping with crisis:   Learning lessons from accidents in the early years

by          Bernadine Laverty & Catherine Reay

charlie-and-dream-graph-50-56

A Graph Review : good consistent level of information and style:  50-56

 

coping-with-crisisFeatherstone (Bloomsbury) publication,  2016        paperback   £18.99

9781472917287       177pp,

Includes diagrams, many useful links and index.

The coverage is defined as for ‘all staff working with children in settings registered on the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register’.     The focus is on real accidents and situations and looks at what went wrong to try to eliminate its causes. Their is also considerable information and advice on the regulations on safety and reporting of accidents.

Basic development of babies and young children are listed.  Descriptions of real accidents are given throughout the different subject areas and consequences. Each Followed by a ‘Back to the team’ checklist that offers needs and actions under the headings of: Plan, Do, Check, Act.     Different ‘accidents’ have differing suggestions for each heading as basic examples.  If these are used as initial safety checklists then additional action points could be included to cover such as details required by contractors, information/ notices for staff, parents and so on.   The importance of assessing and providing safe environments should be a continual part of all staff training as well as a key person. Safety is a priority but so is reflection after difficult events.

The thoroughness and concern of the authors speaks volumes as they highlight each example of accident with additional known children who have suffered.  They also point out that gathering full statistics was not feasible at the time as reporting level was a variable regulation in parts, e.g. Visitors.  Ideal for small units and individuals as well as growing or bigger ‘units’.  The age and range covers childcare, nursery, reception class but not apparently much older. The child’s abilities and reactions my change in age but the thinking behind the checklists is still relevant as they move up in Primary years. Indeed the range of  ‘crisis-management’  expands rapidly as children move into years five and six upwards. This book may still be a good starting point as reference for new staff with its attitude to reflective practice and use of guidelines while attendance to more medical courses will add the extra dimensions required.

A short section of ‘Key points’ is available as well as ‘On Reflection’ which covers areas to be considered after any accident.  One area that seems to consistently appear is on parental information given on such as the ‘inquisitiveness’ or  physical ability, allergies and so on that should be noted and known by all staff.  This is where the checklists provided can give a solid start to the thinking process required to improve any failings in equipment or procedures, including training.

The book covers many aspects on accidents: with equipment, scolds and burns, trapped fingers, choking, falls, infections, and others, even near-misses.     This review may make it seem the book itself highlights all the dangers and is just depressing and off-putting.   Well, partially, but in the real world accidents do happen no matter where children are and this book may well be the first to highlight the rules and regulations of safety and reporting of accidents in Early Years settings.

And positively to offer systems to pre-empt accidents as far as possible and to minimise failings in all areas.  Being prepared is what it is all about because we all know that in the best of circumstances accidents still happen1

for books and prices:   www.BooksEducation.co.uk     

subject:  education

Dyspraxia: Dr Amanda Kirby; Graph Review

Dyspraxia,   Developmental Co-ordination Disorder

by    Dr Amanda Kirby                                            A Graph Review

bodies graph

Souvenir Press   978 028563512 8.         paperback.         £12.99

8th reprint, dated 2009.

218 pp, including glossary, index and directory of resources.                         Plus numerous, gently humerous, but accurate line illustrations.

dyspraxia-a-kirbyThe notes on the back cover highlight this book as ‘a parent’s guide from pre-school to adulthood‘.

In the introduction the author confirms the aim towards explaining to parents, aiding their understanding and potentially how to help the development of their children with the varying degrees of poor co-ordination.  She is also well aware that teachers need to understand and have  a working knowledge of handling children with this difficulty even if not specifically diagnosed.  This book will certainly give both information and help to teachers.

Amanda Kirby is a former GP and Medical Director of the Dyscovery Centre, internationally recognised and published widely as well as having lectured to over 20,000 teachers.  And first -hand knowledge with a son with dyspraxia.  (Looking on web shows Dyscovery Centre as a unit of the University of South Wales, UK).   Clearly written, helping to understand and offering many helpful tips on the various difficulties through childhood to adulthood, for families living with levels of these assorted disorder.

‘Dyspraxia’ also points out that adults may well have degrees of dyspraxia without having been diagnosed but are coping with its associated difficulties.

The book begins with a brief explanation and description of dyspraxia and potential effects within a family.  Frequent samples are included throughout to give realistic views of problems and observations from within sufferers and family members. From pre-school right through schooldays and into adulthood she offers examples of difficulties and tips for the ‘helper’ and individual with the condition.

The chapters move along in sequences of age, appropriate development and difficulties.  Check-lists help pinpoint areas, followed by tips, suggestions,that will help development or maybe use alternative abilities if appropriate. These checklists are usefully labelled for circumstances and parents and teachers. And a chapter for ‘play’ and some helpful ideas, shows its importance for children.  For teachers, the settings are usually in classroom or suggested educational settings and look to be covering more options, some of which are similar to the ‘parenting’ hints.  The parent should be able integrate any of these ‘additional’ ideas into the family routine where appropriate.

Subjects covered in addition to the primary and secondary school ages are such as ‘Bullying’, ‘Helping the Distractable Child’, self-esteem, growing-up and ‘adulthood.  Lastly she has comment chapters on causes (not really sure), when should diagnosis be approached and lastly ‘differential diagnosis.’  Which includes such as ‘semantic pragmatic disorder.

All in all this book is an extremely useful book for explaining and encouraging both those with the varying degrees of co-ordination disorder and their parents, family and teachers.  As with many issues the various activities that improve (in this case, co-ordination) can be most effective if exercised at earliest appropriate age but should be tried even if the need is only recognised later.  Other techniques may be adoptable and successful, whilst understanding and support from within family and school could well have much beneficial effects.

Parents may well be aware of problems early and should find this book helpful from the earliest ages to help reduce potential problems later.

I would recommend this to teachers, especially in the counselling areas as well as parents and those with elements of Dyspraxia.

For a wide range of titles on S. E. N. visit:   BooksEducation website

subject:  education

Apprentice of Split Crow Lane, A Graph Review

A Graph Review    55 with high points to 65:

Victorian True Crime:bodies graph

The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane

(The story of the Carr’s Hill Murder)

by Jane Housham

Published by Riverrun,    November 2016

Hardback. £20.00.          ISBN 978 178648 158 0

appr-split-crow-coverThe central theme is the brutal murder of a five year old girl and a highly researched telling of that story.  Another, all encompassing theme is of local history-cum-social history around the period which unerringly links back to the central theme’s characters.  There is a substantial gathering of background scenery covering: living, labouring, policing, legal, medical and even the ‘politiking’ of the time and years prior to the murder.   Plus of course the careful analysis of the written evidence, newspapers and reports of and around the conviction and its aftermath.

A map is included of the relevant area, useful for me as the movements of numerous people are specified through different sections of the book.

Details of the police work, autopsy and inquest are carefully collated from assorted libraries, National Archives and newspaper records and clearly narrated as events progressed.

It is interesting to read of these now-historic procedures and be informed how and when some changes towards our current practices came about.  Just as interesting is how the models of procedure were being established and how use of forensic analysis was developing.

Moving on, the book explores and explains the fledgling positions of psychiatric analysis and the also the magistrate and county courts.  The author expertly weaves the events of the day from numerous accounts, official or newspaper into narrative as well as using current knowledge of routines to balance the historic methodology.   References abound for referring to at the back of the book, along with a thorough bibliography and index.

From the explorations in this book the movement towards  more sensitive and scientific judiciary and medical (emerging psychiatric) systems is well under way by the mid 19th Century.   A more humane face of all is offered here than you might have expected if you relied on Dickens. Admittedly Charles Dickens was writing from aslightly earlier date and was depicting the worst excesses of a city (London bias). He was at the forefront, as were many at this period, of pushing society forward.

1815…. Edward Wakefield report published 1815. Report of his visit to Bethlem hospital where amongst other things he had ‘seen both men and women, sometimes naked, chained to poles and strapped inside harnesses that inhibited almost all movement’.  Leading reformer Thomas Wakley introduced a more sympathetic, ‘Humane System’ in 1841 which opened asylums to official visitors and a separation of violent and non-violent inmates plus an end to restraints. Additionally, more staff.  The movement towards better conditions and freedoms had been publicly advocated by reformers in the early years of the century and continued throughout.   Broadmoor opened in 1863 by when the system proposed by Wakeley was well established throughout the country.   (See page 179 for description of ‘life in the new humane asylum’)…… note…. Clare’s last asylum seems to have been nearer to these ideals than many other county asylums. perhaps his celebrity status as a poet secured him best conditions, not forgetting that he may have been getting visits from other well-known, and articulate, friends and interested/influential people.

This story extrapolated from notes, reports and letters of Cuthbert’s life in the asylum is compellingly drawn, the story drifting to a sad end with his family moved to Canada and the inclusion of letters from his father to the authorities at Broadmoor.

But this is not the end of the book.  Another, similar case is briefly discussed following with the legal result. More follows with the discussions, arguments even, as to where insanity lies in the commitment of crime.  Again Carr’s case comes into this arena and judgements and texts are quoted from what became definitive books of the day on where accountability sits.

Maybe more could have been said of the degenerative effects of STDs  as they seem accepted as widespread and to have had a marked effect on society of the day.  However as this seems little discussed in the case notes it is understandable.

There is a fascinating look at the reasoning and development of medical and legal definitions of insanity and movements towards considerate treatment of those considered insane throughout the nineteenth century.  The murder by Cuthbert Carr is the central case but later introducing others to demonstrate legal and medical practitioners’ positions in mental capability.  Press and public opinion is well documented here as well as police, legal and medical (asylum) practice over a period where Victorian values were searching for the higher ground despite the still harsh grinding of the industrial revolution.

And all topped off with an appropriate poem by Vernon Scannell.

 

 

 

 

Promoting Fundamental British Values, A Graph Review

Promoting fundamental British values in the early years 

A Graph Review.  55 to 65, sensible and concise for Early Years requirements

By Marianne Sargent

fund-brit-val-coverPublisher:  Practical Pre-School Press

A4 paperback.   £19.99.    978 190928095 3.           Colour illus.,  text boxes

(Available post free from: Books Education website )

This is not in the regions of my usual reviewing but having attended a conference for a wide range of Nursery/Early Years practitioners I was made aware of the need and practical usefulness of this title as it seems to be the first at this level.  In fact students and NQTs that I spoke with were quite fulsome in their praise for many other titles from this publisher.  The main appreciation was for their concise explanation and often practical suggestions on activities.  It was pointed out that lecturers often considered their lack of depth a failing as a text-book (I assume for essays etc and as a reference) but few complaints as a practical ‘assistant’ to student’s work placing some.  On the hand I do know that various titles are recommended as student texts.

The other series and themes seem to cover all aspects of Early Years care and education, especially  focussing on Government and Ofsted requirements.

Enough of an overview, this title may seem a little long-winded but it is what is needed for today and has the easily followed text and layouts established in other recent titles.  There seems to be one other title recently available.

Written because of the importance of the Common Inspection Framework (Ofsted, 2015a) regarding safeguarding and actively promoting British values this book summarises the background reasons, outlines legal responsibilities of early years providers and explains the implications for safeguarding, child protection and curriculum delivery.

The contents explains the different headings of requirements and progresses. With many activity ideas, suggestions of techniques in helping the children progress both in points of text and chart form. There are numerous, brief, case studies throughout. Most importantly, perhaps, are three pages noting what Ofsted look for when visiting this subject area and a ‘Fulfilling the Prevent Duty’ checklist for nursery to run through.   Plus, of course a page and more of additional usable resources for each key heading and a list of References.  Various colour plates and the A4 page layouts design makes for ease of view and reading, dispelling any heavy ‘textbook’ feel.

Headings in contents list:

Introduction / The Prevent duty / Defining fundamental British values and the EYFS / For society but also for the Individual / Democracy / Rule of law / Individual liberty / Mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs / The Prevent duty and your Ofsted inspection / Fulfilling the Prevent duty checklist / Resources / References

It is a useful handbook giving the reasons, requirements for Ofsted and how to approach and attain them in a reasonable, understandable and concise fashion. I do feel rather sad that an ‘official’ system is required but such is our society that developing a mutual understanding of society, culture and gender from an early age is no bad thing; indeed vital in our British multicultural islands.

By the same author and publisher: a companion title full of ideas and help in planning relevant activities that support the ‘learning’ requirements:

active-brit-values-cover Actively promoting British values in the EYFS ( Due Sept 2016, price £9.99) This is a practical planning resource that looks at core British values and shows how they can be actively promoted in the setting and meet the requirements of the new Common Inspection Framework.

It includes up to 16 fully planned activities, four for each value, key questions, discussion points and links to the curriculum, and a checklist and example observation document.  These build up the suggestions and ideas in the previous title so would make life easier for the nursery/school day.

Activities include: Giant jigsaw; Catch the dragon s tail; Taking ownership; Safe passage; Rule of law; On the road; Scribbling feelings; Dilemma!; Beanbag catch; Individual liberty; We’ve all got talent!; A problem shared; Provoking a reaction; Woodland creations; Mutual respect and tolerance; Story wall; Symbolic art; Same difference; Where in the world?

Books available via Books Education with free postage and  Norfolk Childrens Centre,  plus other booksellers.

subject: education