Tag Archives: autism books

(Giveaway) Book Review: In His Shoes by Joanna L. Keating-Valasco

Note:  I was contacted by the author Joanna L. Keating-Velasco with a request to consider this book for review.  After accepting, she sent me a free copy for review.  This is the copy that I will be giving away to a lucky reader.  Gently used, I promise.  I received no other incentive or promise of blog promotion for my review.

Because of the staggering numbers of autistic kids who are being bullied in school, In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism appealed to me.  And, while this is not a book about bullying, it is a book that could help prevent or alleviate bullying of ASD kids.

In His Shoes:  A Short Journey Through Autism is written for a middle school audience.  The book is arranged in chapters containing vignettes of daily experiences of a 13 year-old autistic boy named Nicholas.  Nicholas speaks, but is not conversational.  He suffers from sensory integration issues and is often quite frustrated at his inability to communicate his thoughts and needs.  Nicholas is enrolled in a self-contained classroom, but attends inclusion classes to learn and socialize with typical kids.

Through the vignettes, we observe Nicholas as he experiences many things common to autistic kids.  We also see the experiences of the typical kids who interact with him.  Which is important.  It can be hard, when worrying and hurting for your bullied child, to remember that kids are kids and usually do not have the knowledge or life experience to understand our children’s eccentricities which do seem weird to typical kids.  He (and they) experience such things as:  transitioning to middle school, meeting new people, meltdowns, food aversions, being taken advantage of, bullying, birthday parties, being talked about, sibling relationships, sensory overload, adapted curriculum, going to the dentist, and more.  Following each vignette, is a “Points to Ponder” section of thought-provoking discussion questions.

I particularly like the design of this book.  Having worked with thousands of middle schoolers, I can tell you firsthand that middle schoolers do not care about autism.  Middle schoolers care about middle schoolers.  They are still very self-centered at this age.  It isn’t that they don’t care when faced with another person’s difficulties.  It is that they are mostly oblivious to them.

When you want to reach the hearts of a group of 11-13 year-olds, you have to first put them in the other person’s shoes.  This is what Keating-Velasco does with the aptly named In His Shoes.  Each of the “Points to Ponder” questions asks students how they would feel if faced with the same situation.  The questions are excellent, and I can tell you from experience that they would start a wonderful classroom discussion about tolerance, compassion, and bullying.  Middle schoolers actually love to discuss these issues – especially when given an opportunity to share their opinions!

I see In His Shoes best being utilized in a group setting.  It would be an ideal book to use in 15-20 minute segments.  I could see youth groups, peer counseling groups (student led school guidance activities), or classroom teachers using it.  It is quite the thing these days to have built into the school schedule advisor-advisee periods – usually once a week or during a short homeroom period – when teachers or guidance counselors lead discussions about topics such as this.

If you are a parent whose ASD child is transitioning to middle school or having problems in his/her school, I would take a copy of this to the guidance counselor or principal and ask if they might be willing to use this with the students.  I would go that route first rather than the classroom teacher, as approval would no doubt be needed first.   This book might also be useful to put in the hands of siblings of ASD kids (or their friends) who are having difficulty understanding a brother or sister’s needs.

Joanna L. Keating-Valasco also has a similar book geared toward elementary students.  As my teaching experience has been only middle school for the past 14 years, I decided I would best be able to evaluate this book.  But it might be an option if your child is in elementary school.

In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism is a book written with a specific purpose – opening the hearts and minds of middle schoolers to the experience of kids with autism.  Based upon my professional experience, I think it would do an admirable job of doing just that.  Highly recommended.

The author’s website and information for ordering:  http://aisforautism.net/.

If you would like to enter to receive a free copy of In His Shoes, please leave a comment below.  Must be received by February 9, 2012.  (Planning to simply draw a name out of a hat!)  Question:  Have you (or would you consider) visiting your child’s classmates (or having guidance assistance) to explain his or her ASD condition?  Why or why not?  And, if you did, how did it go?  

Book Review: Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

Note:  Steve Silberman, contributing science editor at Wired Magazine (and a fan of my blog – what an honor!), emailed me with a suggestion that I might want to review Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism with an offer to arrange a free review copy.  Mr. Silberman was enthusiastic enough about this book that he named it his Book of the Year, so I happily agreed.   Other than the review copy I received, I have not received any incentive or offer of blog promotion in exchange for my review. 

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, edited by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Byde Myers, Liz Ditz, Emily Willingham, and Carol Greenburg is aptly named.  This is no Autism Spectrum Disorders for Dummies.  Don’t misunderstand me.  All of you are more than capable of reading and digesting this excellent tome.  And you should.  This book is the definitive work on autism for parents, service providers, teachers, and the general public.  Everyone in the autism community should read it.  Seriously.

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism began as a website.  A website dedicated to educating and dispelling myths about autism.  They (the editors) willingly acknowledge their frustration with a growing suspicion of the role of science in uncovering the mysteries of ASD.  These are a group of women who are accomplished writers, thinkers, activists, directors, scientists, and educational experts in their own right – who all happen to have been affected by autism, either through their families or their professions.  Nope.  No dummies here.   These are individuals who have gone and done the dirty work of autism education by actually reading all of those scholarly and scientific articles, books, and theses containing large amounts of statistical data, genetic research, and other topics reminiscent of torture to an English education major such as myself.  (I tip my hat to them and choose to dazzle the world with my ability to explicate metaphorical relationships instead.)

Yet what they chose to do in compiling  Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism was not to overwhelm the average autism book reader with such difficult material.  Instead, they went into the trenches of the autism community – special needs mommy bloggers, teachers, autistic individuals, writers, parents, nurses, therapists, and the like – and gathered the best articles they could find which represent the truth of autism.  The truth – not media-hyped stereotypes or obscure snake-oil salesmen.  Truth about what living with autism really means.  About the nuts and bolts of what you as a parent need to know to help your ASD child navigate this world.  About public perception, bullying, and grief.  About finding  joy, designing an IEP, sensory issues, and potty training.  About cutting yourself some slack and avoiding being suckered.  About preparing your will and finances for an adult child requiring lifelong care.  About neurodiversity, the causes of autism, and getting the most out of therapy.  About autism and puberty, mature autism, and medications.  In short, there isn’t much about autism this book doesn’t eloquently and concisely address.

And, despite all of the information Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism provides, they still have selections that will move the heart – and often mind – of anyone affected by ASD.  This is a book that will make you laugh, cry, nod your head, resolve to learn more, and question or verify your own convictions.  Most importantly, they manage to do it with respect to readers who may not share the same views –and compassion for those whose grief is new and whose walk with autism is not as self-assured.

There are 74 articles in Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.  Although all of them are excellent, these are the ones I bent the page corners on.  (Shhh!  Don’t tell the Librarian Police.  They’ll make me turn in my librarian badge.):

“Bring Everyone Out” by Kyra Anderson

“What Now?  Ten Tips for Families with a New Autism Diagnosis”  by Squillo

“Getting to Know Your New Neighborhood:  Reading Out and Building a Network” by Susan Walton

“Welcome to the Club” by Jess at Diary of a Mom

“On Autism and Self-Compassion”  by Kristin Neff, PH.D

“An Open Letter to Special Needs Professionals” by Pia Prenevost

“Autism and Environmental Chemicals:  A Call for Caution” by Emily Willingham

“Why My Child with Autism is Fully Vaccinated” by Shannon Des Roches Rosa

“The Autism Path” by JeanWinegardner

“Buying Hope”  by Jennifer Byde Myers

“The Keeper:  A Tale of Late-Childhood Asperger’s Diagnosis” by Mir Kamin

“The Crucial String” by Liane Kupferberg Carter

“Grieving the Dream and Living What Is” by Rachel Cohen-Rottenburg

“Shifting Focus:  Eight Facts About Autism the Media Is Not Covering” by Holly Robinson Peete

“Autism Contradictions” by Jillsmo

“Creating a Special Education PTA” by Jennifer Byde Myers

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is a must-have for any autism library.  Not only is it jam-packed with valuable information, it is a well-edited compilation of very well-written pieces and includes a fantastic list of resources in the appendix.  This is not the kind of book you read in one sitting.  Because you can bounce around to any article, it makes an excellent bedside table book to be read in small chunks – allowing you an opportunity to savor, think about, and further research or care/therapy plans.  Run right out and get this one.

Note:  Proceeds of this book go to The Myers-Rosa Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to autism education, advocacy, and community support.


So, have any of you read Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism?  If so, what are your thoughts?