Many of us never hear these words.
“Your child has autism”.
That must be a very complicated, lonely feeling.
By now, most people know what autism disorders are. “These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors”. The linked article goes on to state how the disorder generally can be detected by the age of 2 or 3. Explains probable causes. The strengths that autistic children demonstrate. The probabilities of having a child with autism.
I have not worked primarily with children. Never autistic children. My only experience has been in working with their parents. Their reports have been varied, but always filled with a search to understand their child. To help their child learn. To bond with their child and to help their child bond with others.
A bit out of the blue, I was asked by St. Martin’s Press to review the book by Raun Kaufman, Autism Breakthrough. I made sure they knew I was no expert on autism. They still were interested. Sent me a free book.
I am always eager to learn.
The book itself was well-written. Highly readable. Chock full of information. Some repetition but I thought that it was actually appropriate given that the book was a teaching tool. He included online links for further ideas and support
Mr. Kaufman’s whole approach is built on a positive, believing attitude. To quote: “embracing without judgment where your child is today – while believing that she can go anywhere tomorrow”. This means loving the autistic part of your child as well. And it is about having faith. Again, I quote: “cultivating a belief in what your child can do – unencumbered by the limited, pessimistic, stifling version of reality that others may espouse”.
Play therapy techniques are taught to parents by his institute, the Autism Treatment Center of America. Parents are the teachers. That takes extreme dedication. It uses methods such as “joining”, where the parent mimics the self-stimming behavior of the child. (Example: If your child lines up blocks, the parent lines up her own blocks). The theory is that joining with your child will open an opportunity for him to connect with you. You are in his world. He is much more likely to choose to connect.
Specific instructions are given for many different types of work with your child.
Mr. Kaufman was born with autism. He states he no longer has it. In fact, experienced a normal adolescence. His parents developed this technique. And he clearly attributes his own full, satisfying life to these concepts.
He is a definite advocate of his program working better than others.
There are many who have not taken that criticism sitting down. The people who believe in the “limited, pessimistic, stifling” treatment, as Mr. Kaufman would call it. They say his approach is not well-researched. There is not concrete data on its efficacy. Give their own statistics for effectiveness. If you are interested, here is a link.
As a psychologist, I liked Mr. Kaufman’s approach. It is similar to what perhaps some of you have read in my own writing.
Acceptance leads to desired change. It’s not helpful to “hate” what is wrong with you, or different about you. If you accept it, you are far more likely to get clarity. To begin moving in a positive direction.
Acceptance is not resignation. Far from it.
However, I am not writing to support whether his work is superior to others in the field or not. I did notice that his book did not include research studies. I found two online. It would be an excellent idea if more well-documented research was executed. They have won recent awards. I am not sure what that means. Just information.
There are discussions all over the mental health field about what treatment regimens work best for specific disorders. The most salient feature of successful “talk” therapy has been the relationship between therapist and patient. It is not hard for me to make the leap that perhaps for an autistic child, a parent being so active, engaged and positive yet firm in their relationship could have a tremendous impact.
So my initial impression is generally positive. About the book. About the technique. But I know that there are many things to consider when selecting a treatment option for your child.
What would I want to know if I were a parent? Is this treatment going to help MY child? MY family?
Parents should know there are options. If I had an autistic child, I would at least want to know what is out there.
I have heard that it is an extremely complex, emotional journey.
I hope this information will be helpful.
If you know of someone who might be interested in Mr. Kaufman’s work with autism, please send this on!
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Dr. Rutherford was not paid by St. Martin’s Press for this review.