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.
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.
A Guide to Mental Health Issues in Girls and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum: Diagnosis, Intervention and Family Support is the first book to look specifically at how mental health issues relate to girls and young women with autism, covering theory, research and tailored interventions for support.
In this extract, taken from Chapter 6 on Anxiety and Depression, author Dr Judy Eaton explores the results of a number of studies into anxious behaviour in girls and young women on the autistic spectrum.
Evidence suggests that an estimated 40 per cent of individuals on the autism spectrum will suffer from high levels of anxiety (Van Steensel, Bögels and Perrin 2011). Clinical experience would suggest that this figure is likely to be higher, particularly amongst those with the pathological (or extreme) demand avoidance profile. In an earlier version of the DSM, DSM-III (APA 1980), ‘sudden excessive anxiety’ and ‘unexplained panic attacks’ were included amongst the core criteria for a diagnosis of autism. However, subsequent versions of the DSM (IV and V) do not include this. The reason for this is not entirely clear. Hallett et al. (2013) cite the meta-analysis by White et al. (2009) which found that between 11 per cent and 84 per cent of children with a diagnosis of autism display anxiety. Of the 31 studies analysed 30 per cent were diagnosed with specific phobias, 17 per cent had obsessive compulsive disorder, 17 per cent had social anxiety and 15 per cent reported features of ‘generalised’ anxiety. Their results suggested that children with autism were twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders compared with their neuro-typical peers. High levels of anxiety have a negative impact upon education, social relationships and social participation and on other members of the immediate family group (Reaven 2011). There is also an increased likelihood that these anxiety disorders will persist into adulthood.
Dr Fiona Zandt has written the below article on the importance of play in therapy. Dr Fiona Zandt and Dr Suzanne Barrett, authors of Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings, are clinical psychologists who currently work in successful private practices in Melbourne. They each have over 15 years’ experience working with children and families.
Connecting families with wool – Why play is so important when working therapeutically with children
A therapist recently described using an activity from our book that involves using wool to connect family members to make visible the ways in which their feelings and actions impact upon each other. Following the session the child who was being brought to therapy articulated some of what she had learnt to her Mum. She said that she now knew that if she died, everyone would be really sad, and that not everything was her fault. Her comments reflected some key messages that the therapist wanted to convey – namely that she was part of a family who cared about her and were all being affected by the difficulties they were experiencing. Blame was removed and the responsibility for change was shared, laying the foundation for the therapist to work effectively with both the parents and the child.
Sharon Shoesmith has worked with children for almost 40 years in a career which culminated with her role as Director of Children’s Services in the London Borough of Haringey. She was in this role in 2007 at the time of death of Peter Connelly, also known as ‘Baby P’. Blamed for his death and unlawfully sacked, Sharon Shoesmith became the primary target of a public and press-led outcry in the aftermath of the case.
Click here to read an extract
Learning from Baby P is Shoesmith’s dispassionate analysis of the events which followed Peter Connelly’s death, documenting the responses of the media, politicians and the public whilst defending social workers against the scapegoating which happens so frequently in the aftermath of high profile child protection cases. She explores the psychological and emotional responses we share when faced with such horrifying cases of familial child homicide, and how a climate of fear and blame which follows such tragedies can lead to negative consequences for other children at risk of harm, and for the social workers striving to protect them. Sharon now works as a researcher, writer and public speaker in areas related to education, social care and public perception.
Learning from Baby P is a thought-provoking book aiming to deepen understanding and shed light on the difficult relationship between politics, the media and child protection.
In this article, Jane Evans reflects upon her new book Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love to discuss how we can help children aged 2-6 learn about the ways that love, friendships and kindness can look, sound or feel in this increasingly complicated world.
It may seem strange to think about teaching children about love and kindness. Surely that’s what they grow up knowing. They feel it every time they are picked up, rocked, fed, and sung to. They see it in the eyes of those around them. They are taught the difference between a kind act and an unkind one once they begin to be around other children. Lessons on sharing and ‘not pushing and snatching’ can become regular and repetitive!
What prompted me to write about Cyril Squirrel going on an adventure to find out about love and kindness was a sense that these simple concepts are getting lost and confused in modern day life. Children can easily come to equate love and kindness with things. We live in a consumer driven world in which parents and carers can feel a real pressure to show children how much they matter by providing material comforts, fabulous toys, equipment and experiences. But is that a great example of love? Continue reading
In this article Sophie Ashton, author of The Secrets of Successful Adoptive Parenting, talks reassuringly about the emotional challenges of adopting a child.
It is quite common for adopters to feel emotionally overwhelmed soon after their child moves in
In the early weeks post-placement many adopters feel a mix of emotions in response to their child. For some adoptive parents the challenging and negative emotions seem more prevalent than the positive ones, and can on occasion lead to them starting to question their reasons for wanting to adopt. Sometimes these challenging emotions can put the adoption placement at risk of breaking down. I know this – because it almost happened to us.
After four years in the adoption process we were very ready for the arrival of our daughter. Although emotionally exhausting, the eight-day introduction period went well. We warmed to her – she warmed to us; she and our birth son seemed to get on well. We were all beyond excited when she moved in – we adored her. Happy days! Our dream of a perfect family was coming true!
Our honeymoon period didn’t last long
Unbeknown to us, however, just the other side of a brief two-day honeymoon period were some pretty challenging and debilitating emotions lying in wait for us to experience in full. These emotions turned our excitement into panic, our hope into despair and our happiness into gloom. We felt heavy and weighed down by the mixed emotions we felt in response to the placement of this little girl in to our family.
Natural Curiosity is a warm and contemplative insight into one family’s experience of moving from mainstream schooling to home education, and learning through the lens of nature and natural history.
Since becoming “unschooled”, the author’s two children have thrived on a diet of self-directed play and learning, amassing life skills, confidence, responsibility and a vast array of knowledge along the way. This thoughtful book touches upon important themes in education and environmentalism, including children’s rights in schooling, the use and place of technology in learning and the absence of the natural world in mainstream education. It gives a considered, balanced view of home schooling interspersed with entertaining tales, and offers an understanding of how this type of education works and what inspires the choice to pursue it.
>>Click here to download the extract<<