A Light Touch – Understanding Autism

Jonas Torrance provides creative therapy & behaviour support for autistic children. His first book, Therapeutic Adventures with Autistic Children: Connecting through Movement, Play and Creativity is published by JKP on 21st May. Here, Jonas describes a case study in which a little understanding went a long way.

Jamie, an autistic boy, is in maths. The boy behind him begins to absentmindedly stroke Jamie’s back with a pencil. He lets the pencil drift up, and then back down. Jamie starts twisting in his seat, shouting and tearing off his clothes. The maths lesson descends into chaos.

A few days later, Jamie is able to explain why he was so distressed – the sensations of the pencil on his back made him think that the whole back wall of the classroom was collapsing, and that he was about to be crushed to death.

autistic childrenThese days there is a good deal of understanding around the sensory issues that autistic children face. Ear defenders, for example, have become a common accessory for those with sensitivity to sound. But it’s important to realise that, to the autistic child, the ear defenders are not simply useful for reducing noise levels. The tightness of the headphones is also a factor – for some children this pressure gives them the sense of their heads being held together and contained. Continue reading

Coming Home to Autism

New book Coming Home to Autism takes a room-by-room approach to guide the parents of a newly diagnosed child through day-to-day family life. There are ideas and routines to try at home, including advice on toilet training, diet and nutrition, sensory play, and much more. We sat down with co-authors Tara Leniston and Rhian Grounds to find out more…

Congratulations on the publication of your first book! We want to let our readers know a bit more about it, so, can you tell us who this book is for? Who did you have in mind when you were writing it?

Tara – When my son was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago, I was looking for a book like this. I needed simple practical advice that was easy to read, and something I could use at home.  All the books that were available at the time were either very medical based, diaries of other people’s journeys, or books on pointing fingers as to why your child had autism.  I was very fortunate that I lived in the London borough of Wandsworth at the time Dylan was diagnosed, and I had access to the best help. I was also in a position where I could throw myself fully in to learning all about autism and Dylan. While I was writing I was thinking of all the information I wish I’d had in one place – as opposed to spending hours, weeks and months researching and wasting a lot of money on things that didn’t really help at all.

Rhian – Yes, as Tara says, it was written for families with younger children and those children with a relatively recent diagnosis. I was constantly thinking back to all the families I have worked with, what they said was most useful during their sessions and what they wished they had more advice on. I was also thinking of all the other professionals I have worked with over the years and how their knowledge has contributed to helping children and families consider and plan for all their child needs; from the day to day activities, sleep and communication. This book really is a combination of all those experiences and expertise.

autism

How did you discover your shared desire to help and advocate for autistic children?

Rhian – My career has been dedicated to working with all ages with ASD. I have worked, volunteered and supported autism awareness campaigns. At the same time Tara was raising money for the National Autistic Society; launching herself off buildings, clearly advocating for Dylan and autistic children! She was also supporting local families with advice and signposting them to resources and services. Through our common desire to advocate and consider ASD as part of our families and communities we developed a friendship.

Tara – I gave up my career as an actress to help Dylan and I threw myself in to learning all about autism and how I could help others in the same situation as us. The autism community is a fantastic group of supportive people, families and professionals. I believe Dylan brought Rhian and I together to write this book.

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Tiger Mums & Parenting Pressures

Uttom Chowdhury is a Consultant Psychiatrist and a dad. His new book, The Tiger Mum Who Came to Tea, is a funny and insightful adults’ picture book, combining knowing humour with sound advice to reassure parents under pressure. In this blog, Uttom tells us about some real-life tiger parenting that inspired the book. 

This is a book I wrote primarily based on my experiences as a parent in North London rather than my experiences as a Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. It came about after one of the mums from my children’s school told me all about her sons academic achievements and extracurricular activities. He had just done Russian GCSE and was now doing French GCSE as well as violin grade 6 and playing table tennis at a high level, but she was worried he was not reading the right books. He was 13 at the time.
tiger mum

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Autism as Difference Not Disorder: Insights from the Author

Drawing on 30 years of professional experience and detailed research, Difference Not Disorder: Understanding Autism Theory in Practice exposes the myths around autism and provides practical guidance on teaching and learning, behaviour management, addressing sensory and physical needs of children with ASD.

Difference Not Disorder

Our recognition and understanding of autism forms a recent story in terms of human knowledge. In my lifetime this story gained momentum, hastening to the current perception of autism as neurological in nature. However, across the globe this neurological nature, viewed at-odds with the neuro-typical one, is considered impaired or disordered. The over-arching aim of this book was to question this assumption while posing an alternative view of difference not disorder because of all the children I had the honour to work with, children with autism were some of the bravest.

disorder

There are limitless ways in which I witnessed their bravery. They included venturing every day out into a world with incomprehensible social rules and codes in which lack of or inappropriate response could result in unwelcome, verbal attention or even confusing reprimand. It also included perpetually manoeuvring through sights, sounds and textures that could overwhelm and/or aggravate the senses often without being able to express mounting stress and distress; and/or experiencing revulsions towards some tasks but compulsions towards others in situations where you had no idea of the duration or scheduling of either.

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Tactile Defensiveness – Moving from Avoidance to Self Love

From Noreen O’Sullivan, author of I’ll Tell You Why I Can’t Wear Those Clothes! Talking about Tactile Defensiveness and mother of girls with sensory processing issues, comes this personal snapshot of how her book has embodied the JKP motto, “books that make a difference”.

Five years ago, I had the honour of being signed on with JKP for my children’s book, I’ll Tell You Why I Can’t Wear Those Clothes! Talking about Tactile Defensiveness, and grateful it remains on their Best Seller list still today.

Over the years, I have received countless letters from parents thanking me for a book  specifically for their child and allowing them to express their emotions around this sensory issue through drawing and writing.

tactile defensiveness

We all have tiny nerves inside our bodies that we can’t see.
They have important jobs to do, like carrying messages from our skin to our brain.
That’s how we know when something is soft or hard, or hot or cold.

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All About Me

All About Me is an in-depth guide describing the practicalities of telling a child or young person about their autism diagnosis. It discusses when to tell, who should do it, and what they need to know beforehand. In this blog, author Andrew Miller explains his reasons for creating the book, and who can benefit from it.

autism diagnosis

What motivated you to write All About Me?

Telling children and young people that they have autism and trying to explain what it means to them is difficult. The abstract nature of autism, its associated differences in cognition and its lifelong implications make it hard for children to understand, and finding out that they have autism could potentially cause some individuals emotional and psychological upset. Therefore, in some cases it could create more problems for an individual than it might intend to solve.

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Winston Wallaby Can’t Stop Bouncing

Winston Wallaby Can’t Stop Bouncing is a fun, illustrated storybook that will help children aged 5-10 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and/ or Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC/ASD) to recognise their sensory needs and to develop tools to support them. To learn more about the book, who better to ask than its authors, K.I. Al-Ghani and Joy Beaney? Chatting to them, we learned a lot about hyperactivity in children, what to look out for and what can help. There’s even a downloadable activity sheet for teachers. Read on to find out more.adhd

What motivated you to write Winston Wallaby Can’t Stop Bouncing and who is the book for?

Joy and I have worked together in special education for many years. We noticed that there were not many books available that could explain hyper-activity to children in a story format.  We decided to collaborate on this project using Joy’s expertise in Sensory Processing Difficulties, my skills as a story teller and Haitham’s ability to bring it all to life, through his illustrations.
We think the book has something for everyone: It is a story all children can enjoy. A story in which, we hope, children with hyperactivity will be able see themselves in Winston.  They will learn that it is not their fault and instead of being the problem, they could learn to be part of the solution. Parents and educators will have tools and strategies they can use that can help the child to manage their hyperactivity and, if successful, perhaps avoid the need for medication.

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Autism: A Journey of Discovery as a Parent and Psychologist

Raelene Dundon is a parent, a psychologist and the author of  Talking with Your Child about Their Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for Parents. In this piece, Raelene tells her personal story of how she came to write this book, and what she hopes it will achieve. You can also read an edited extract from the book on our blog, here

Looking back on where this book really started, I would have to say that it was 10 years in the making. It was about 10 years ago that my son Aaron was diagnosed with Autism, and I was launched into a world of speech therapy, behavioural intervention, visual supports and questions – lots of questions.

parent autism

I was already a registered Psychologist at the time, and had been working with children with Autism and other developmental disabilities in an early intervention program in Melbourne, Australia. While with hindsight I can honestly say that my experience of being a parent to a child with Autism has been a challenging but overwhelmingly positive one, I can still remember the moment I was told that Aaron had Autism and my reaction was one I have since seen many other parents go through – fear, sadness, and confusion.

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How To Tell Your Child They Have Autism

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New book Talking With Your Child About Their Autism Diagnosis is a guide to aid discussion and understanding between parents and children. In this blog, edited and adapted from Chapter 3 of the book, author Raelene Dundon breaks down the reasons why she recommends being open and honest with your child about autism. 

child autism

Is it important to tell a child they have autism? Do they need to know? Will they figure it out for themselves? What does the future look like if they don’t know?

These are questions that parents of children with autism may ask themselves many times from the time their child receives their diagnosis, and the answer is not a straightforward one. Depending on who you talk to, there are different opinions on whether it is necessary to tell your child about their autism or not.

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Top five tips for parents on developing resilience in their autistic child

All children need help to bounce back from life’s challenges, but having autism can sometimes make this more difficult. Building resilience and independence in children with autism can be hugely beneficial in helping them live an independent and rewarding life. Dr Emma Goodall and Jeanette Purkis have written The Parents’ Practical Guide to Resilience for Children aged 2-10 on the Autism Spectrum to help parents, teachers and carers support and empower the young people in their lives. 

autistic children

Parents of autistic children can worry about their child’s future. Parents are often given a long list of the barriers to their autistic child’s potential, or even told that their child will not finish school, get a job or live the kind of life parents tend to want for their children. Whilst well supported autistic adults usually achieve a happy and fulfilled life, many autistic people can struggle to find their confidence and resilience to respond to every day events.

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