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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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.

 

 

 

 

Charlie and the Dream, Graph Review

charlie and the Dream Charlie and the Dream.                      

charlie and dream graph 50 56A Graph Review.

50 to 56 though 9-12 age range children will probably say more.

 

By Paul W Robinson

978191017662 7           Paperback £12.50        Published by Shieldcrest

New writers come from all directions, with or without experience of their subject and audience but often with abundant enthusiasm for their subject. Paul Robinson shows both depth of experience and enthusiasm in all his subjects within a well constructed and satisfying crime collection using the basis of ‘new’ Holmes and Watson characters.  Paul Robinson has put together short stories that follow a developing relationship between two youngsters in a format of crime- fiction for what I would assume to be a top primary/middle school age reader.

The first story introduces the main character and following intros to the additional friends in the detection stories. As that is what the stories are.  Charlie(Charlotte) is deaf and makes friends with another girl (Jo),  also deaf, which leads to the first ‘adventure’.  The characters live in the real world and the stories follow events around their school and home life.  Use and description of lip-reading and sign language (BSL) plus the variety of children in an inclusive school situation help set this book apart from the norm.    There are five stories over 281 pages enabling the reader to take them in stages if preferred, however they all link together in a satisfying conclusion.

Every genre has its niche and maybe here is quite a small one and a world away from the current main streams of fantasy worlds.  However the book is successful in its series of short detective stories for young readers.  Quite a departure from the likes of Rowling, Walliams or Horowitz, though aimed at a slightly different age range.  Each story is a realistic crime and involves Charlie, Jo and the police.  The involvement of two as ‘detectives’  being the key additional elements. The element of deduction holds up very well in true Holmesian tradition.  Teamwork and ingenuity  bring the book to a satisfying conclusion. It seems to me a good addition to the realms of Holmes and Watson for 9 to 12 age range readers and no bar to older.

The author has worked with special needs children, especially deaf children for some forty years and now puts his experience into good practice for these stories to produce a wide range of real-world characters and experiences.  As we have had a plethora of adult detectives and crime fighters with suggested special needs in their characters it is quite refreshing to have these areas positively identified and dealt with realistically within fiction for and about children.  The children’s individual characteristics are usefully used and explanations are where required for readers and importantly are encompassed naturally within the stories.

Published by a small publisher, Shieldcrest,  in conjunction with the author.  A follow-up novel is promised.

Available via Amazon or to order through booksellers.

For a superb explanation of autism see the book Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant,, a previous Graph Review.

subject: education

Uniquely Human, by Dr Barry Prizant

Uniquely Human.                                     A Graph Review.   70 points averagegraph Rev., average 70

Barry Prizant with Tom Fields-Meyer

Souvenir Press.                                       Hardback.        £20.

Pub. March 2016.          978  028564333 8

human picIn this book we have a most readable and clear understanding of autism and the difficulties different levels of autistic conditions may present.  However the great quality of this book is the focus on the child and understanding the situational behaviour.  For behaviour, physical or verbal is communication and by recognising and understanding this there can be way forwards in helping the developmental processes to their full potential.   Barry Prizant uses his forty years of working in and researching on the subject to examine case studies throughout the book on the differing situations and problems of his students, whether in family, work or educational situations.  From the observations given he unravels the problem and offers/explains an appropriate solution.  Usually the answers lie in understanding the motivation in the autistic person in the situation and using the positives within them to channel their development.

The authors lead us through the world of people that have different to average wiring (as it were) in their brains.  Here we have the average population noted as Neurotypical and those covered in this book as autistic, noted as non- Neurotypical.   Seemingly today 1 in 50 might be considered on the autistic spectrum, not that long ago thought of as 1 in 100 and prior to that 1 in 1000.   ( We are talking synapse connections here, within different parts of the brain)

Travelling through the book is a bit like putting the lights on more brightly and seeing people so much more clearly.   Chapters cover:  ‘Why?’; ‘Listen’;  ‘Enthusiasms’;  ‘Social Understanding’; ‘The Real Experts’;  among numerous others.  Throughout, the emphasis is on understanding the person within the autism and also, to a great extent, listening to the parents as they will most frequently have an understanding of the difficulties and needs too.  Helping to understand the chaos they may see in their world, offering strategies to cope with those things that come more naturally to others and helping to maintain a sense of security within that world rather than a sense of fear; all this in a book of a lifetime’s work.

There are many resources listed; publications by and for professionals and parents.  Also websites listed in the book, some produced by people with autism and sites of organisations.  A good start, though many are American they would be of interest here in the UK; although not in the book there now large numbers of sites and organisations based in the UK which are easily found.

This book is actually exciting to read as often what may have been unknown or mis-understood becomes blindingly obvious. Probably not easy to follow the paths of all those involved with or helping in autism but a great insight into the subject and a perspective on developmental psychology.   My thanks to Barry  Prizant, Tom Fields-Meyer and all others who are mentioned and the people involved the SCERTS model for their enlightened and enlightening approach to autism.

I could pull out lots of gems of information that would stand alone but there are so many that my typing would seem endless and still be a poor substitute for reading the book. The book is bursting with examples, case studies, to show difficulties faced and, dare I say it, seemingly simple solutions that help understand the world of autism.   Simple that is, after forty years of  learning to understand the worlds of autism.  In fact it would also help in the so-called Neurotypical world.

The reviews on the cover give such praise of the book and Barry Prizant’s methods that they alone should encourage anyone involved in any aspect of teaching, developmental psychology, or the understanding of human life, to read Uniquely Human.  Not only will you understand a little more about autism you will likely learn something about yourself.

This book is available online from specialist bookseller:   BooksEducation

subject:  education