Book Review: Engaging Autism

outsideThe truth is all children need the principles on which DIR/Floortime® is based. It is a way of interacting with your child that improves their ability to engage, relate, communicate, and think logically and flexibly. All children (actually, all people)  can become better communicators, given coaching by a more competent communication partner.  Children with sensory-based communication impairments need particular focus and coaching in these areas of development by their parents, instructors, and caregivers.

The vast majority of the children we see in our clinic have sensory-based communication impairments. This means that their ability to engage, relate, communicate, and think logically and flexibility has been limited, at least in part, by sensory system challenges.  Engaging Autism is one of our most frequently recommended books to parents and caregivers. It is also a good introductory book to DIR/Floortime® for clinicians, teachers, and caregivers who are not trained in the approach/technique.

Here are the reasons we think you should read Engaging Autism by Stanley Greenspan, M.D., and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. (even if your child doesn’t have an autism diagnosis):

1. The book is easy for non-professionals to read. Drs. Greenspan and Wieder use language that is easy to relate to and give interesting examples to make the principles understandable.

2.  It is inspiring.  When  reading this book,  parents are often relieved because they realize that someone is actually addressing the real concerns they had for their child’s development, and that the approach makes sense intuitively.  It is an approach that parents can learn and implement themselves.  It gives parents a way to better understand their child.  With that increased understanding,  Floortime users learn that behavioral approaches can be limiting because they don’t always reach the child in his/her place of joy or understand the biological needs that may be limiting their child’s functioning.

3. Engaging Autism helps you become a better advocate for your child by giving insight into developmental steps that are not on a standard developmental chart.  Most people are familiar with developmental milestones which include when a child should roll over, sit, babble, and say their first words.   Fewer people have had exposure to developmental stages such as 1) Shared Attention and Regulation, 2) Engagement and Relating, 3)Purposeful Emotional Interactions, and 4) Shared Problem-Solving.   Understanding these stages described in this book will help you to advocate for your child when standard measures done by physicians and/or school systems say “Let’s wait and see.”

4.  This book can be read many times and the reader will learn something new each time.   As their child overcomes challenges and moves up the developmental ladder, parents can continue to refer to Engaging Autism to help them address higher level needs. Also, the person engaging with the child may refer back to the book to continue to hone his/her skills.   I, personally,  often look back at chapters in this book to help me refocus.  Also, I may refer parents, teachers, or clinicians to a specific chapter in this book.

5. There is a special section devoted to  “Overcoming Difficult Symptoms.”  This section gives insight into scripting/echolalia, self-stimulation, sensation craving, overactivity, avoidant behavior, activities of daily living (such as eating or toileting), behavior problems, coping with feelings, meltdowns and regressions.  Although there are no easy answers to these difficult symptoms, readers can understand what may be going on in their child’s brains and bodies in order to support them.

The emotional well-being of children and families is a huge priority when choosing how symptoms should be addressed.  Being able to understand our children at a deep level plays a huge role in the way we respond to situations, and the way that the child ultimately learns to see and value himself.  Engaging Autism will help you learn many wonderful things about your child and the immense value you can add to his/her life.