This weekend I read ‘Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew’ by Ellen Notbohm. At first I thought I was going to hate it. It is very American in tone, with lots of platitudes such as, “There is no shortcut to any place worth going”, and “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are probably right.” I usually hate these sort of life-affirming, upbeat messages. They don’t sit well with my cynical world view. I think it’s probably a British thing.
But I have to say that, once you get past the tone, the book is very good indeed. And to be fair, who is going to read a book on understanding autism that takes a pessimistic and world weary view? The book is full of practical advice and does a really good job of demystifying lots of aspects of autism. Like the ‘Unstrange Minds’ book it is written with passion by a parent of an autistic child. As such it is easy to relate to and also quite inspiring.
As I was reading it, it occurred to me that it was so full of good information that there was no way I would retain it all. As if by magic, on the next page the author wrote: “When a diagnosis or identification of autism first comes in, many parents feel overwhelming urgency. They rush to read everything about autism they can get their hands on. And sometimes the ensuing crush of information overwhelms.” Well, I’m overwhelmed alright! She follows this with the advice that there is plenty of time. I’ll keep it in mind.
As I have been reading, I have thought about some of the children in my classes who are on the ‘spectrum’. It’s made me think about how they learn and what might stop them learning. It’s really made me think about how I teach them- how I talk to them, my expectations and my response to them. Although these students are ‘high functioning’, much of what I’ve read will be relevant to them to some degree.
If, next month, the paediatrician says, “he’s not autistic” (unlikely) or, “let’s monitor it for a few months” (more likely), then reading these books will not have been a wasted experience.