Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review - Playing, Laughing and Learning with Children on the Austism Spectrum

This is a book I bought shortly after we learned our daughter's official diagnosis. I will make a disclaimer before I continue that I have not read all of it. In all the time that I've owned this book as a resource I haven't really plumbed its depths, and I think that is because of two factors. First, it really is deep in terms of the amount of information that is contained in this relatively slim volume. There are hundreds of well-explained, well-organized, researched and documented effective ideas for entering into an ASD child's play life, and that's just in the part that I have read. Second, it is not exactly the type of book that one sits down and reads cover to cover. It is more of an encyclopedia of play. Trying to figure out how to use music? There's a chapter for that. Interested in board games and puzzles? There's a chapter for that. Computers, toys, books, and even the dreaded television are addressed. It is not a page turner, but it is something that one could turn to for good solid ideas of how to address a certain area of play.

The reason I bought the book is because I have always found it challenging to play with my daughter. That may sound kind of shocking to some people. She has always been very content to play on her own, so if I have projects to keep my busy (and usually I do) a lot of time can go by before I remember to check on her. It is an intentional act on my part to invade her space and enter into play with her. I had hoped that reading this book might make it easier to break down the walls. What reading the book (or part of it) did is confirm that the walls need to be broken down and it does take effort and it may not ever be "easy". My experience has taught me that consistently making that effort makes is easier to continue the effort and, gradually has meant that my daughter will make more of the effort from her side of the wall.

The other day she was so eager to "play" with me. She just wanted me to accompany her in picking some berries from a bush in our back yard and crushing them with one of her sandbox toys to make "applesauce". Recognizing this as a major step in our relationship - to have her invite me to join a pretend play activity with her - I knew I had to respond to that effort. The other projects were set aside...this was important!

So if you need some tools to start chipping down the walls, this book is for you!


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