Book Review: Asperger Syndrome: The Oasis Guide
Author: Patricia Romanowski Bashe
Publisher: Harmony Books
Date: 2014 (3rd rev ed)
[Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. I was in no way compensated or asked to write a favorable review. There you go.]
This book has been around long enough and been through enough iterations that I don't need to spend a great deal of time writing about it's overall contents and objectives. The subtitle says enough: "Advice, inspiration, insight, and hope from early intervention to adulthood." Straight up: this is a book about Autism Spectrum Disorders with a special emphasis on Asperger Syndrome.
The book is thorough and comprehensive and what began as an internet project eventually morphed into this present (3rd edition) volume–a veritable encyclopedia of information, resources, and insight into the world of ASDs and AS. The importance of the volume is expressed early on:
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 1 in 68 children have ASD. Autism spectrum disorder is more common than childhood cancer, Down syndrome, muscular distrophy, or cerebral palsy. Authorities who focus on AS estimate that perhaps 1 in 250 present with that profile. (15)
These are staggering and important numbers. On the one hand, it means that more and more parents need to be provided with resources and information for early intervention, treatment options, transition services, and long term stability of their children. On the other hand, it means that the public education sector needs to continue preparing educators, therapists, and intervention specialists to service the needs of this growing and demanding population of children. We need to know about evidence based practices, service providers, and available resources for our students who present with an ASD in general or AS in particular.
There is no shortage of 'experts' in the field of ASD and wading through the plethora of information, discerning between this expert and that expert, is no easy task–especially for those parents whose children are being identified earlier and earlier. As an educator, I will say this: wading through the muddled mess that is special education is a mind-job in and of itself. Having a resource at your fingertips that can provide you with a clear path and information on reliable sources is a must when first encountering a director of special education, an intervention specialist, and the handful of therapists who will work with the child.
This book will be a reliable resource for such parents. In the book you will find:
- Information about what AS looks like; although, the saying, 'If you have met one person with an ASD you have met one person with an ASD.' No two people with AS are alike. There is a lot professionals know; there is a lot they do not know.
- Discussion of various interventions including one of the most popular, Applied Behavior Analysis. Parents are cautioned to keep their children first and to ask questions–a lot of questions before undergoing any sort of treatment regimen. I found the section on OT (Occupational Therapy) especially helpful.
- There's an important chapter about medications. As always, it is important to ask a lot of questions of experts before undergoing any sort of treatment involving medication
- A significant chapter covering aspects of the child's life at school. Here, I speak as a professional. The child's life at school can be one of the most complex, draining, demanding, and beautiful experiences if the professionals working with the student are 'all on the same page' and work together. Consistency across the board and respect for the student's disorder is vital.
- Discussions about various laws and how they affect the families of children with an ASD both as young people and as the child grows into adulthood.
There is much, much more too. The book is written in a nice, conversational style and technical jargon is carefully explained making the book accessible to lay-folks–for whom it is written!–but also stimulating for the professional. I don't think this is the sort of book a person will read for pleasure, but I do think this is the sort of book that will need to be kept close. I expect the new parent will want to keep a pen handy for highlighting and underlining and perhaps also some sticky-notes for noting important websites and other resources they want to pursue.
The general education teacher will also find this a helpful volume too since many students with AS are fully integrated into the general population of students at school. This book will be a handy resource when learning about characteristics and qualities that make students with AS so unique and valuable in the classroom. The teacher will also have a helpful resource to share with colleagues and parents who have questions.
Finally, the intervention specialist will want a copy of this book too. There is a helpful index where subjects can be accessed easily and quickly and also scattered throughout the book are various resources–both online and in print–that the teacher may want to add to their library. The section between page 356 and 374 dealing with tantrums, rages, and meltdowns is essential reading for parents and professionals alike. It is this section, among others, that I will be sharing with the paraprofessionals in my own classroom.
I highly recommend this book. Even if the prevalence of ASD levels off, there will still be a large portion of the population in need of care and intervention. There will always be families and educators who need helpful and thoughtful resources in order to meet these needs. This book is as timely as ever and should be in every parent's hands. It is comprehensive and thorough yet highly accessible.
PS-I am not, necessarily, an advocate for any of the particular 'treatment' or 'therapy' options in the book. I think the book is a helpful resource for someone who is searching for direction in a maze of opinion and experts. As a special educator, I try to keep an open mind about therapies when it comes to students with an ASD or AS. Given that every child is different, I extrapolate from this that every child will respond to treatment differently. I am advocate of whatever works. And every parent needs to follow their own heart, their own medical professional's expert advice, and be patient with their child. There is beauty in the uniqueness of every child with AS and it is my hope that every parent will see this beauty and choose what is best for their child and their family. The book is a guide and it should be taken as that.