Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Louise Weston

Photo: JKP author Louise Weston with husband GrahamTop Tips on Love and Relationships from Louise Weston

Louise Weston is a Registered Nurse from Queensland, Australia. She was the former co-ordinator of a monthly support group for non-spectrum (NS) partners and spouses of individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS). Louise is happily married to her husband Graham. After they were married in 1999, Graham was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

Louise is the author of Connecting With Your Asperger Partner.

Graham and Louise’s Top 5 Tips for AS/NS Relationships:

  • Accept each others’ differences.
  • Have mutual respect.
  • Maintain healthy boundaries.
  • Use humour to diffuse conflict.
  • Agree to disagree.

Helpful Tips from Louise:

  • Discuss issues together regularly.
  • Forgive quickly and often.
  • NS’s: It’s imperative that you look after yourself – sleep and rest are vital.

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Sarah Hendrickx

Top Tips on Love and Relationships from Sarah Hendrickx

Sarah Hendrickx is a specialist Asperger syndrome trainer, consultant and coach, providing individual, couple and family support on all aspects of life, including anxiety management, dating, relationships and work.

She is the author of Love, Sex and Long-Term Relationships and Asperger Syndrome – A Love Story. Sarah’s partner Keith has Asperger syndrome.

Top Tips for both partners:

1. Learn as much as you can about how your partner thinks, feels and sees the world.

2. Accept their view of the world – even if it makes no sense to you. It is as real to them as your world is to you.

3. Remember why you fell in love with your partner. Maybe they are too stressed out to be that person anymore. Do more to help them to allow that side you like to show.

4. Embrace and celebrate your own and your partner’s quirks and funny ways. Laugh at yourself and each other and don’t take yourself too seriously.

5. Although you may be adverse to the idea of declaring your love on a day designated by someone else or on what you consider to be a commercially driven occasion, your partner may appreciate you doing so. Buy a card. Buy some flowers. Give your partner a hug. Tell them you love them. Ask about their day.

6. Keith has worked out that if he buys me flowers, send me text messages and phones me during the day, that I feel very cared for and moan at him a lot less than when I feel uncared for. He considers the cost incurred to be a fair price to pay for what he receives in return. Smart man!

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Jonathan Griffiths

Book cover: Asperger Meets GirlTop Tips on Love and Relationships from Jonathan Griffiths

Jonathan Griffiths designs software for a living and had no girlfriend until the age of 22, but is now married to a beautiful Australian. His father used to be a train-spotter, so his very existence just goes to show that there’s hope for us all. He lives in Western Australia with his wife and children.

Jonathan is the author of Asperger Meets Girl.

What is wrong with this picture?

Everyone has someone – at least, everyone worth speaking of. On Valentine’s Day, people show off – themselves to their partner and their partner to their peers (as in “You’ll never guess what [name of squeeze] did for Valentine’s!”). That’s how the world can track who’s a winner and who’s a loser.

From our point of view, People of the Spectrum, just about everything is wrong with it – but what can we do about it?

  • The first thing we can do is refuse to be ashamed. If it looks likely that another 14/02 is going to come around for you with no date and no incoming card, make sure that you have a positive plan to spend that evening doing something that you enjoy.
  • Second, we can refuse to be hurried. We should build our relationships at our own pace, and if that means a particular friendship is not ready to go to another level this February, so be it. Don’t let the calendar add to the pressure. For us, it’s difficult enough already.
  • Third, don’t stalk. In the past, Valentine cards were largely a means for hinting at undeclared feelings but, if we use them in this way nowadays, it tends to reinforce the worst stereotypes about us.
  • Fourth, if you do have someone, use your knowledge of them to devise a Valentine’s experience that’s in some way specific to them. For various reasons, we’re unlikely to do well in a direct competition with other lovers, or other couples. However, instead of competing, we can specialize and innovate. Those are things we can do well.
  • Fifth, don’t devise an over-elaborate plan with multiple points of failure. Instead, leave some space for the other person to shape the occasion.

It’s a struggle, but not an unwinnable struggle. Good luck in it.

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Rudy Simone

Top Tips on Love and Relationships from Rudy Simone

Rudy Simone is an Aspergirl, writer and AS consultant who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in the USA.

She is the author of 22 Things a Woman with Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know, 22 Things a Woman Must Know If She Loves a Man with Asperger’s Syndrome and Aspergirls.

Top Tips for AS partners:

1. Don’t forget to show appreciation. We expect perfection, so often forget to compliment the good things about our partner.

2. Don’t respond to every invitation with “I wouldn’t like it”. Instead, get some information about the event or people and make an educated decision.

3. Have an understanding with your partner – when you need to leave, you NEED to leave.

4. Have a sensory tool kit wherever you go, whether it contains music, earplugs, squidgy (stress ball), hat, glasses, etc. You can protect yourself to some degree from sensory onslaught and this will increase the time you can stay out.

Top Tips for non-spectrum partners:

5. After a social event, even a date night out with just the two of you, have some quiet time in the car – don’t just blast the stereo thinking he or she is still in dancing mode. Transitions are difficult. Thank them for coming out of their comfort zone and remember: we need one hour of down time for every hour of socializing.

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Josh Muggleton’s Top Tips for Raising Kids with Asperger Syndrome: Tip #1 – Bullying

Before Christmas, JKP author Josh Muggleton came to our offices and recorded a series of top tips for parents, professionals and people with Asperger syndrome, all based on his own hard-won experience.

In this video, he offers parents and professionals advice on tackling an all too common problem for children on the spectrum: bullying.



Josh has led talks, lectures and workshops on autism spectrum disorders, and has appeared on various major television stations in the UK and the USA.

Read a fantastic interview with Josh about his new book, Raising Martians – from Crash-landing to Leaving Home: How to Help a Child with Asperger Syndrome or High-functioning Autism.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.


Combining ideas from SLT and OT to Speak, Move, Play and Learn with Children on the Autism Spectrum – An Interview with America Gonzalez and Corinda Presley

America X. Gonzalez is a Speech and Language Pathologist Assistant who works in several institutions in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Corinda Presley is an Occupational Therapist at the Communication Works Center in Oakland, California.

In this interivew, America and Corinda explain how the activities in their new book, Speak, Move, Play and Learn with Children on the Autism Spectrum, – co-authored with Lois Jean Brady and Maciej Zawadzki – draw on ideas from both Speech and Language Pathology (SLP) and Occupational Therapy (OT); how this combined approach has benefited their own practices; and why the process of doing each activity can often be more important than the outcome.

Where did the idea to combine SLP and OT come from?

America: The idea was born out of a spirit of collaboration that came up when we noticed that our students were working on similar projects but with an OT or SLP spin. Another way we came together was when the speech team would make quesadillas with the students to work on sequencing, vocabulary and describing goals. And the OT would say, “Can I jump into your activity to practice cutting the quesadilla into triangles with my student?” And so we began to purposely create activities around both OT and SLP goals. We recently found out that the University of California – San Francisco has built therapy rooms for the explicit purpose of the collaboration between therapists. This is a wonderful step towards collaborative therapy.

Corinda: In all areas of healthcare and education, a multidisciplinary approach is the most effective way to meet the needs of the individual you are working with. Every field has their own unique perspective to bring to the table and it helps provide an overall picture of the individual and their needs. In the educational setting, working with professionals from varying backgrounds is a part of the daily routine, be they occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, orientation and mobility therapists, behavioral therapists, or adaptive physical education specialists. Through the years occupational therapists and speech therapists have discovered the value of combining their expertise to elicit the most out of a child. The occupational therapist brings a sensory-motor approach using meaningful activities such as crafts and arts, while the speech therapist brings the most important aspect everyone needs in any setting: functional communication.

For those with a background in SLP, how can incorporating methods traditionally associated with OT transformed your work?

America: Incorporating occupational therapy into a speech therapy session has transformed us into more well-rounded therapists. We can help the student reach their goals faster because they are working on a goal many more times per week. Traditionally, the therapist works with their student once or twice per week. With our activities they can work on their goals twice with their OT, twice with their SLP and a few more times at home. The difference between 2 times a week and 6+ times a week creates the surge in learning. The repetition helps students reach their goals faster and helps the lessons sink in.

Corinda: Functional communication is a huge part of our daily living. It is a means of survival to meet our basic human needs. Communication is a natural part of therapy, however as occupational therapists working in schools, we are specifically looking at students’ motor, sensory and daily living needs. Incorporating a communication system that matches the child’s level allows the therapist to work with the child in a more holistic way. Working with speech therapists has enhanced and enriched my therapy and I truly see great progress with children with challenging behaviors.

How should a teacher go about using the book’s activities in the classroom?

America: Teachers can easily do these activities because the materials needed can almost always be found around the classroom. Another great advantage of this book is that a teacher can customize the lesson to the appropriate learning style or level with our “Variations” section at the bottom of each activity. The entire classroom can do one activity regardless of there being many cognitive levels in the class. Everyone can participate and be a part of the fun.

Corinda: There are a lot of academic tasks that can be learned by students through a “hands-on” approach, as opposed to traditional classroom techniques. Children are, by nature, curious: they want to touch, smell, and manipulate “things.” A multisensory approach to learning creates greater potential for acquisition, retention, and generalization of new skills. We feel it is important to create alternative methods of acquiring knowledge with children who struggle with traditional methods. We hope that simple activities we included in this book will become a welcome addition to a repertoire of teaching strategies used by teachers, who are looking for stimulating ways to engage their children. Many of these activities can be altered or graded to meet varying cognitive levels. A variety of common classroom and household materials are used in the activities and most are interchangeable. The main focus for group activities is providing an opportunity for the children to engage in supported socialization and conversation. It allows opportunities for joint attention and to think about other people in the group with commenting on each other’s work, and sharing materials.

And what about parents at home?

America: Parents at home often struggle with getting their children of all ages and abilities play or interact together. With these activities, their children of differing abilities can work side by side on the same project by using the “Variations”, thus bringing the family together. Another benefit is that the book is easy to read and to follow which takes away the mystery of helping your own child succeed.

Corinda: We understand the daily struggle parents live with when raising a child with a disability. We strongly feel that building relationships with family members as well as peers is important and possible. Using creative stimulating activities as a bridge to forming these relationships also allows great opportunities for social language and developing pragmatics. This book also provides many activities that help encourage children to participate in daily activities, such as cooking, brushing their teeth, cleaning their rooms, and more. We would like to see our students be engaged and participating members of their families, and home is a great place to start, since it is a safe and familiar place.

Throughout the book you stress that the value of each activity is in the process, not the finished product. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

America: Many people put too much emphasis on having their projects look pretty and correct. But in reality if a student makes a macaroni self-portrait that has five legs instead of two, it’s okay because the extra legs were extra opportunities for that kid to work on their pincher grasp. The lesson is the important part. Learning the technique in a fun way is more important than having the project look polished.

Corinda: Nobody learns new skills without making mistakes and errors along the way. They are inevitable parts of learning. By focusing our attention on the process, rather than the finished product, we are trying to emphasize the importance of the small steps necessary to build competency in a new skill. We feel that gaining small skills that can be generalized to many areas is more beneficial than being able to complete one big project. Additionally, by avoiding the pressure associated with the perfect outcome, we are hoping to bring some joy and laughter to the activity itself. Spilling some flour is not the end of the world, but it is an opportunity to practice other skills, such as drawing shapes with a finger.

You’ve helped to transform the lives of many children using this approach, and in fact include some of your success stories in the book. Which for you was the most memorable, and why?

America: All our successes are memorable. Just when you think you have a huge success with one student then another one comes along and surpasses it. I’m sure that since we wrote the book we have had even more magical moments. This is why we do this. Every day is another opportunity for a great feat.

Watch the Book Trailer!


Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Little Volcanoes: Helping Young Children and Their Parents to Deal with Anger – An Interview with Warwick Pudney

Warwick Pudney is a social ecologist and relationship therapist who has spent the last 25 years working with men, couples and families in New Zealand. He specializes in the areas of anger, abusive behaviour, men’s welfare and parenting. He is a lecturer at AUT University in Auckland and writes and gives workshops and training courses in his chosen fields.

His new book, Little Volcanoes, offers strategies to combat negative feelings and minimize outbursts, and even provides a selection of poems and stories to help adults pass on the lessons of the book to children.

In this interview, Warwick explains why it is essential that children learn to deal with anger from a very young age, and provides some helpful advice for parents and other adults about their own behaviour.

You have previously written a popular book about anger in children called A Volcano in My Tummy. Tell us about your new book, Little Volcanoes – co-written with primary school teacher and novelist, Éliane Whitehouse – and who it is for.

Volcano in my Tummy was a more general book about children’s anger. We soon realised that a more specialist book for under 5’s was needed. My work with early childhood educators and with families convinces me there are a number of issues that could be looked at that would greatly assist young children. If constructive patterns of responding to children are formed and if assistance is given earlier to our children, we would have much better ways of dealing with anger as older children and later as adults. The book is aimed at professionals but in a way that parents can also easily pick up and read.

 Little Volcanoes focuses specifically on anger in young children. How does the experience of trying to help young children with their anger differ from helping older children?

Younger children have a much better chance to learn how to handle anger and do so easier. The formative years are really what we need to target. Giving young children simple but powerful words to express anger and hurt means many will have fewer problems with anger than older children, so as professionals we need to have a dual target for behavioural change. It’s also important for the young child to really get that ‘abusive behaviour is not OK’. Learning that 20 years later in a courtroom or through a painful break-up is so much harder on the person and society.

In the book there’s also some specialist information around early childhood issues like tantrums and working with boys.

Do you think that adults’ responses to anger in younger children differ from those when responding to older children?

Adults are more likely to disregard young children’s anger because they can more easily ignore it or tell the child to not be angry or to go to their room. When they are older, children or adolescents may be less inclined to comply with such demands and also they may channel ten years of ignored anger simply because they weren’t respected and allowed expression and because they are now bigger and so they can!

In the book, you describe anger as an empowering force. How can it be a good thing?

We all are born with a set of emotions that each have a use for the good of our lives. Anger is there to protect us when things go wrong, when there is injustice, and when we feel disempowered. Take that away and you have a very vulnerable, dependant person who needs another person capable of feeling anger for them.

You stress the key role of parents within the book, and are particularly interested in the role of the father. Tell us why this is, and the role the father plays.

Parents shape children’s behaviour. This behaviour needs to be shaped in a secure and trusting atmosphere that parents provide. Listening hard to children and, especially with young children, figuring out what they mean or what the real issue is, is so important to their feeling that they have a voice and are safe and the world is fair. Boundaries and regulation can then take place in an atmosphere where the child wants to do a thing due to the respect and love they have for the parent. Research clearly shows that fathers are vital to this, not just as an equal parent but for the differences that they bring. Fathers tend to be more firm on boundaries and reassuring to the ways boys think. Males tend to get more social permission to express anger. They provide male models of how to handle anger and conflict and have respectful differences.

You also write about the impact of society on young children’s behaviour. What kind of environmental factors can contribute to angry behaviour in young children?

Children are never angry about nothing. It stands to reason that if they feel angry then we should listen to them and help them deal with it. They have a clear set of needs that vary: from food and warmth, to love and affirmation; or the need may be as simple as the fact that ‘Ann has taken my favourite pens and won’t give them back’ or ‘Stephen had more than me’. All of these are things worth getting angry about if you are four. If their environment is not supplying them with coping strategies then there is a consequence and anger as the survival emotion kicks in. Our families and homes and society have a responsibility to provide support – otherwise someone has a right to feel angry. That doesn’t mean that we always get what we want; an important lesson in life is dealing with not getting what we want. Good anger management helps us know when to let go. Having Dad’s support in getting the pens back (or coping with their loss) is as important to a four year old as crossing the road safely.

A child’s behaviour is inextricably linked with that of their parents. Tell us about the book’s coverage of working with parents as well as the child.

Kids don’t learn disrespect from nowhere. Parents model good anger expression, listening, talking and respect. Often not only do parents not know that they may be doing something that may cause some anger in their children now or later, but they may need some training to parent in a different way.  The book goes through a number of parenting patterns that are not so helpful and suggests helpful ones – for example: promoting consistency; giving affirmations; and looking to other adults, not children, to get a parent’s own needs met.

What are some examples of the kind of advice you give to professionals faced with a young child who is exhibiting angry behaviour?

  • Listen, listen, listen! Empathy dissipates anger.
  • Ask what’s behind the anger. What’s the disempowerment?
  • Then ask them how they would like to fix the problem – generate a plan. You may have to help them with this and with a young child you may need to do the fixing.
  • If there is destructive or disrespectful behaviour then set boundaries and consequences and keep to them.

How do you hope children will be helped by this book?

They will get clarity about what acceptable behaviour is and isn’t, and they will learn to keep within the boundaries set out for them. They will learn to get what they need without hurting others. And they will also learn that anger is OK and they’ll learn to not be so frightened of it. It’s normal and we all have it.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Mastering Approaches to Diversity in Social Work – An Interview with Linda Gast and Anne Patmore

Linda Gast is an independent trainer and consultant in the social care and criminal justice fields. She provides training on diversity, equal opportunities, gender issues and working with hate crime offenders. Anne Patmore is an independent social worker, trainer and practice assessor. She has worked in child and family social work and trains on various topics including equality and diversity, safeguarding children, and working with disabled children.

In this interview, Linda and Anne discuss their new book, Mastering Approaches to Diversity in Social Work, which looks at a range of diversity issues in social work practice and includes a model for understanding discrimination.

Diversity is one of the nine overarching competences for social workers in the Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Workers in England. Why is this such a cornerstone in social work practice?

Linda: Everyone we deal with in social work requires us to think about difference; be it the culture of the different organisations with whom we work, the personal preferences of our colleagues or the socio-cultural aspects of our service users’ lives. We all have biases which incline us to see the world from a particular perspective, so to work effectively with diversity we need to understand ourselves, recognise our biases and work constructively to overcome these.

Anne: Understanding ourselves and the people we work with, both service users and colleagues, is crucial if we are to be effective as social workers. In our day to day interactions we are required to understand and work with a wide range of differences and the importance of being able to do this effectively is why diversity is the cornerstone of professional capabilities frameworks for social workers in England, Scotland and internationally.

This book is one of the first (alongside Jane Wonnacott’s book, Mastering Supervision in Social Work Practice) to feature in the brand new JKP series, “Mastering Skills in Social Work.” Can you tell us a bit about the need that these books aim to meet, and the approach you have taken to writing it?

Linda: After social workers have qualified they find it hard to keep focused on reflection and development as they are very busy learning the job and managing the considerable workload. This series tries to provide stimulating ideas in a succinct manner and sufficiently closely related to everyday practice where learning takes place.

Diversity is addressed very fully during the social work training programme, but as we move into being experienced practitioners we can become “unconsciously competent” so we start to take our knowledge for granted. It is possible to become complacent and drift into less thoughtful practice. The series overall seeks to remind practitioners and managers of the level of “conscious competence” where practice is thoughtful, learning is continued and self-exploration is actively pursued.

Anne: We set out to provide a straightforward, accessible and thought provoking resource to assist busy social work practitioners and managers make sense of their day-to-day professional experiences. Through our daily interactions with a wide range of practitioners at all levels of social work, we recognise the challenge of keeping abreast of current thinking and debates, particularly given the pressures they are experiencing in the current climate. With this in mind we have explored a range of different approaches and made links to practice across a range of settings, as well as including tools to enable the reader to reflect on and develop their practice and confidence.

You regularly train social workers on this subject. Do you find that trainees feel confident talking about diversity?

Linda: On the whole newly qualified social workers are not very confident in talking about diversity. It is an area that receives considerable attention during training, but there is often a sense that there is a ‘right answer’ and people are frightened of speaking for fear of getting it wrong. Most people do not want to offend anyone else, so become self-monitoring and wary of the subject. It is only in a spirit of learning – where we can all get things wrong on occasion, and need others to be able to point things out and explain why particular words, phrases or behaviours are not acceptable to them – that we are then able to modify our own behaviours.

Anne: In my experience of working with student social workers and those undertaking post-qualifying awards, there is a tendency to think ‘race, culture, religion’ when asked about diversity. Recognising the importance of other aspects of difference may be more of a struggle for people, and takes more teasing out. There can also be a feeling that ‘it will take too long’ to explore and address all areas of difference, and yet in reality doing so effectively from the outset actually makes better use of precious social work time.

What are the most common issues that social workers flag as problematic?

Linda: Race is still the issue that raises the most concerns, but much of this is about finding the right language to be able to talk about skin colour, culture, and difference. More recently race has become confused with religion with a media antagonism to “Muslim terrorists”, and the suggestion of a very close co-relationship between the two words, such that anyone who looks like they come from South East Asia is (a) assumed to be a Muslim, and (b) assumed to be a terrorist! Rationally we know that is not the case but, particularly after incidents like the London bombings, emotions can take over. Being able to talk openly about reactions that we have, which we certainly aren’t proud of, is more honest and beneficial than trying to pretend that these reactions don’t exist.

Anne: Much of my training is around aspects of working with disabled children and their families, and so for me disability is usually the main area for discussion, often alongside race, culture and religion. As Linda says, there remains for many people a fear of ‘getting it wrong’ and causing unintentional offence, which can hamper the debate. Accepting that it’s OK to get it wrong as long as we learn from and correct our mistakes, and freeing people up for discussion and exploration of issues has got to be the best way of moving forward in my view.

This book takes a very broad definition of diversity considering ‘difference’ in all its forms, and you’ve avoided using common terms such as ‘anti-oppressive’ or ‘anti-discriminatory’ practice. Can you tell us more about the approach you put forward in the book?

Linda: Anti-discriminatory practice is the legal basis for all social work. Similarly anti-oppressive practice should be an underpinning principle for all work with others. However they are both a stance ‘against’ either treating different groups of people less favourably, or exerting inappropriate power over people. This book tries to explore the positive aspects of each person being different, with a different set of personal preferences, prejudices and opinions. As long as we are aware of the biases which we hold, we can take other people’s behaviours as ‘reasonable’ by understanding the different preferences that they might have and their different perspectives on the world. It avoids putting things down to personality difficulties, and the more explicit we are about our approaches to the world, the more we can harness the benefits of these differences.

Anne: As you say these terms are both in common usage, although in my experience they are often used interchangeably, sometimes with little real comprehension of the meaning of either. As Linda says, in the book we have aimed for a positive approach, based on respect for those we work with, in the hope that it will widen the debate.

The book is very readable and practical, combining relevant theory with a number of different models and tools for practice. Can you tell us about some of the models that feature?

Linda: Some of the models are well tried and tested, such as the Kolb learning cycle as developed into learning theory by Honey and Mumford and used as the basis for the reflective practice cycle developed by Tony Morrison. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicators based on Jungian psychology is also used quite widely, but we are not sure that it has been considered seriously in working with service users.

Other models are less well-known and one developed by Conroy Grizzle has been taught to hundreds of practitioners but has never been published. This model provides an understanding of the different meanings that can be attached to a diversity issue word, such as ‘racism’, such that different people mean different things by it and it becomes a source of antagonism and dispute. By appreciating that there are different meanings it is easier to begin a discussion about what each person means by their use of the word.

Anne: We’ve intentionally drawn on a variety of theories and models, including some which have previously been used more in human resource settings than in social care. We are hoping this will encourage practitioners to be more creative in their use of models and tools for practice. It’s not a case of ‘throwing out the old’, but more ‘if it’s out there and helpful, then why not try it and see if it works for you?’

How have attitudes to diversity changed since you started your own careers in social work and criminal justice?

Linda: When we started in social work, diversity was firmly considered from an anti-discriminatory, anti-oppressive viewpoint, and it had the feeling that if you were white, male, heterosexual and able-bodied, YOU were part of the problem. A lot of the training at that time induced guilt but was not very helpful in encouraging best practice through open exploration of the subjects of difference.

Since then diversity has come and gone from the political agenda, with more or less focus on it in day-to-day practice. It tends to oscillate between being a subject of great importance and one that is a distraction from doing the day-to-day job. Hopefully at the moment we are so focused on best possible practice that consideration of ‘all the ways in which we differ’ is intrinsic to good practice.

Anne: I totally agree. What has been really heartening over recent years is people’s willingness to explore and engage in debates about diversity, recognising that in doing so they are more likely to make positive and purposeful relationships with service users and colleagues. This is firmly on the current agenda in social work and will hopefully remain so!

Finally, what do you hope the reader will take away from this book?

Linda: As with all of our training courses what we hope people will take away is a ‘can-do’ approach. We seek to engender a sense that it is possible for all practitioners to move from their knowledge base into their practice base, and feel that they can move on confidently into discussing and exploring all issues of diversity with their practice supervisors, colleagues and service users.

Anne: Social work continues to be an incredibly challenging profession, but it is one that offers endless possibilities for learning and development. My hope for the book is that it will excite and energise those who read it, provide them with fresh insight and ideas, and renew their enthusiasm for this complex and rewarding task.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Understanding and maintaining professional boundaries in social care work – An interview with Frank Cooper

Frank Cooper is a freelance trainer specialising in professional boundaries in social care, and has over 16 years’ experience as a social care professional. He previously also taught in the fields of volunteer training and drugs awareness, and has developed accredited courses in his chosen fields of specialty.

In this interview, he discusses his new guide, Professional Boundaries in Social Work and Social Care; explains why professional boundaries exist and why they can sometimes be difficult to maintain; and shares his personal experience of what can happen when those seemingly clear lines are crossed.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you come to write this book.

I have worked doing a variety of social care roles since I was 18, starting with youth work and then moving on to drugs work with young people and then drugs/addiction work with adults. Along the way I have also been a care assistant with stroke victims, worked in children’s homes and with the homeless. I have always delivered training, firstly for my employers and then freelance. As time went on I came to realise the importance of boundaries and noticed the lack of training available. Having delivered the training for a while, the book seemed like the natural next phase.

Why are professional boundaries important in social work and social care?

Professional boundaries are vital in social care work because we are working on a deep level with vulnerable people. This means that we have a responsibility to them to do things to the best of our ability and to ensure that our help and support does not damage or disenfranchise them. Working with difficult issues can also be very stressful and draining work, and professional boundaries help us to manage ourselves and our emotions.

How do they differ to professional boundaries in any other sector?

Whilst the basic boundaries within this book are similar to many other sectors, the application, understanding and maintenance of the boundaries is more complex. The relationship that social care workers hold with their clients, the amount of time they spend with their clients, and the nature of the subjects they deal with all complicate things. The most complex area of professional boundaries is managing the relationship between client and worker, and social care workers often have the most complex relationships with their clients.

Who have you written this book for?

This book is aimed primarily at students in the social work/social care sector or those working in the sector who have not received any formal training on boundaries. However, given the lack of detailed training in the sector generally, it is suitable for people at all stages of their career. Boundaries is an area that is always worth reflecting on in order to improve your practice, and going over the materials in the book should provide food for thought for anyone involved in social work or social care.

You are an experienced trainer in this area. What do you tend to find trainees struggle with the most in relation to professional boundaries and confidentiality?

Most of the training work that I have done is with professionals who have already been trained and are experienced. In terms of confidentiality, the area that they seem to find difficult is managing the complex boundaries when working jointly with other social care professionals supporting a single client. Once you are working with other professionals you feel part of the same team and it can be difficult to withhold information. The other area that people often find difficult is dealing with concerned family members.

Can you give some examples of the negative consequences of failing to maintain boundaries?

At its most extreme, failing to maintain boundaries can lead to issues of serious neglect and abuse with clients, either through the failure to offer necessary support or by the relationship slipping into deeply inappropriate areas.

A more common example would be allowing a client to feel that they have a ‘special’ relationship which could lead to them becoming overly dependent on you as a worker. If you then move jobs or have to refer them on, any positive work that you have done could fall apart as a result of the difficulty they have in separating from you.

As a worker it is very easy to slip over the line without noticing that you have done so, particularly if the client you are working with brings up strong feelings or memories for you. Being self-aware and keeping a check on yourself is essential. The book contains signs to watch out for in both worker and client behaviour, and also some insights into issues such as co-dependency that can be both a cause and effect of boundary issues.

Have you ever experienced conflicts relating to your own professional role?

I have had many situations involving boundary crossings and issues, I think that anyone working in the social care field will have had many similar experiences.

One of the most difficult experiences I had was working in a children’s home. I was a new, locum worker. One of the older boys started to regularly punch me in the arm and despite my best efforts to deal with the situation I couldn’t control him. I went to a senior member of staff and asked for support in dealing with the situation. I was advised to give the boy ‘a little dig in the ribs’ and that would sort the situation out. In the end I stopped working at the unit and made a complaint about the member of staff.

I have also had a situation where a teenage female client I was working with, repeatedly turned up at the project late at night whilst I was working – threatening to kill herself (or me) when I didn’t let her in – after I had refused her request to be her father. This situation was much more complex to resolve and involved working closely with my manager and other members of staff to support her.

One really useful feature of the book is a self-assessment questionnaire for the reader to fill in. Tell us how it was devised and what kind of feedback you have had on it to date.

What I wanted was a format to engage people in the subject. I have always enjoyed filling in those questionnaires and it is a format that people are familiar with. It has been incredibly popular and I get feedback all the time on it. I use a version of it in all my training sessions and a version has been published in Community Care Magazine. Most recently some social workers in Florida have requested to use it at a conference and I have had many lecturers and managers request to use it in their work.

Take a Professional Boundaries Quiz.

Finally, the book is full of very practical and hands-on advice. Can you give us a few examples of the kind of tips that feature in the book to take away?

The aim of the book is to be practical and hands on reference guide. It includes signs that you or a client are crossing boundaries and that the relationship may be heading in an inappropriate direction. Methods to help challenge and manage client’s behaviour and also action points to deal with and manage crossed boundaries. There are tips about assertive communication, which is essential to enforcing boundaries successfully; a list so high risk situations; and guidance on how to react to boundary crossings and high-risk situations. There is a whole chapter on beginning and ending relationships which gives very simple step-by-step guidance on how to successfully start and finish a relationship in a “boundaried” way.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Story Drama in the Special Needs Classroom – An Interview with Jessica Perich Carleton

Introducing drama to the learning experience is an especially effective approach for children with special educational needs, including those with autism spectrum disorders.

In her new book Story Drama in the Special Needs Classroom, theatre teacher Jessica Perich Carleton offers teachers from all disciplines an array of simple and easy-to-implement theatrical techniques that will enhance students’ learning and encourage artistic expression.

Here, Jessica explains why this approach is so effective, and how any teacher can apply it confidently and successfully.

Please tell us a bit about your background, and what motivated you to write this book.

I was working for a wonderful organization called VSA Arts of New Jersey (a John F. Kennedy Center affiliate in Washington D.C.) creating and organizing programming for all abilities and all artistic mediums. New Jersey has one of the highest rates of autism in the U.S., and so the majority or programming was focused on autism and the arts. When I taught one of the programs I assumed there were resources for teachers and/or artists detailing how theatre could be used with elementary school aged children (5-11) with autism. I was wrong. So I felt it was necessary to create a book that gives teachers – regardless of experience – practical tools and completed dramas and lesson plans to start creating drama in the classroom.

Why is this approach especially effective for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and other special needs?

The formula (called the Dramatic Formula) in the book presents each step with a specific skill that the students need in order to succeed in the drama, while at the same time balancing the level of stimulation for the students so they can focus on each section. Structure and balance of stimulation are the two main factors which give this book success. These two elements allow the students to succeed in a safe and nurturing environment.

How should this book be used? Can you give some examples of successful applications from your experience?

The book is very structured but at the same time it gives the teacher enormous flexibility. For the first-time facilitator, I strongly suggest following the plan as written and following the steps in the pre-written story dramas at the end of the book. This will ensure teacher and student success, perhaps in a style of learning that may be new and different.

When I implemented the steps in the Dramatic Formula with elementary school aged students (5-11) with severe autism I followed the same Dramatic Formula every week. It never changed and the students weren’t bored with it or didn’t think that it was stupid because we did it last week. I believe they looked forward to tackling each task. Because even though the structure of the lesson was the same, the activities we played within that structure changed so it was never boring. And even in a short time, there was definite improvement; students became more confident and started to say the lines and initiate the next plot point in the story drama.

What are the most important factors to bear in mind when choosing a children’s story to convert to a story drama?

Children’s stories are one of the greatest resources a teacher can have in the classroom. When choosing a children’s story in order to transform it into a story drama, the story line of the book should possess active and strong language. The characters in the story should be doing things, going places, fulfilling tasks. The more active the story, the easier it will be to transform it into a story drama and the more engaging it will be for the students. Children’s books where the storyline is more narrative are difficult to convert into a story drama.

What advice would you give a teacher who feels uncomfortable ‘acting’ in front of his or her class?

Take baby steps! Just like the students in the classroom no one is going to be successful at performing Hamlet if we haven’t learned how to deliver a line or to create character strategies and tactics to achieve his/her goals. The book breaks down how to “act” in front of the classroom through several Teacher Theatrics. It outlines for the teacher the most simple and fool-proof execution of the technique as well as more advanced options. Teachers can choose where on the scale they feel the most comfortable. What is most important is that the teacher feels comfortable and confident because the class will mirror her/his behavior – hence why there are several entry points for each Teacher Theatrics to ensure success. When teachers have the opportunity to learn through play it is the most rewarding experience for everyone. Students and teachers experience seeing each other from an entirely different perspective where skills and talents may have been overlooked in the past.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.