How to develop positive thinking in young people with autism by using Social Stories ™

” What Einstein was to atomic theory, astronomy, and math,
Siobhan Timmins is to Social Stories™ “
Carol Gray (founder and creator of Social Stories™)


Using the highly effective Social Stories™ model, Developing Resilience in Young People with Autism using Social Stories™ is full of ideas for coping with negative experiences and helping young people with autism, who are particularly susceptible to setbacks. In the following extract Siobhan Timmins introduces how to build positive thinking and then presents two Social Stories™ from her book called
Beginning to think in a positive way and Learning to think in a positive way.


Click the link below to read the extract




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Using non-threatening direct work with children – an interview with Audrey Tait

With one bestselling direct work resource under her belt already, Audrey Tait, with Helen Wosu, has produced another must-have guide, full of creative ideas to engage the whole family and effect positive change through direct work. On the release of her second book, Direct Work with Family Groups, Audrey reveals how she developed her direct work activities, her experiences in the field, and her most cherished memories.

Tait and Wosu-Direct WorkFamilyGroups 1

Audrey, you have 20 years of experience working with children in social work settings, how do you feel that that experience has prepared you for the work you’re doing now?

I trained as a nursery nurse originally and this gave me a good understanding of child development, but also the importance of play. My career was based in children’s centres, nurseries run by social work which offer a package of care to the whole family, they offer a service to some of the most vulnerable children. It is no surprise then that many of these children had difficulties with speech and language and many of the children had issues with their wider development. They often had no reason to trust adults or expect adults to meet their needs – they were in essence ‘hard-to-reach children’. In communicating with them the workers needed to be very skilled and played a huge part in facilitating communication. This is where I learnt and developed my skills both with individual children, and working with family groups. When I moved to train as a social worker (approx. 12 years on), while doing the training I worked shifts in residential care with children aged 12-18, I realised that my skills were transferable. Arriving in practice teams doing child protection work I naturally used these skills, but I realised in the course of the job that I sometimes needed to be able to talk about difficult things more quickly than I would have liked (i.e. sometimes on first appointment in case of child protection, with really no time to establish a relationship, and in a critical position where not fully understanding the child’s situation could leave them at risk). How to do this in an as non-threatening and as gentle a way as possible was where many of the direct work activities came from.

Activities from Direct Work with Vulnerable Children have been adopted by a large number of social workers – what do you think it is about the activities that appeal to social workers and their service users?

Children respond well to non-threatening direct work, they need you to meet their needs, they need to feel relaxed and to get something out of the engagement with you – play is a common activity that children, and everyone else, is familiar with. It has potential, when used well, to help the participants feel safe and reassures that it can help facilitate communication, and ultimately it is rewarding for all parties. This doesn’t detract from the serious subjects we are often dealing with, adults who work with vulnerable children and adults do so because they care, they want to get it right, and in my experience most will do anything they can to extend this care, ease communication and ensure people get a good service. When professionals use direct work and see positive results, they are naturally motivated to develop their practice in this area.


Tell us about your new book – Direct Work with Family Groups. How is it different from Direct Work with Vulnerable Children?

Direct Work with Family Groups explores the challenges of working with families in the community and there’s a natural progression from Direct Work with Children. In reality, in my practice I will work with the child individually and with the family group. Other times the emphasis will be on working with the child, then the focus will shift to work with family group, then back again and so forth, depending on the needs of the child/family. Many of the activities can be transferable from one-to-one work to group work, and the second book focuses on activities and case studies. With regards to family groups, often people (including me) find this type of work challenging because you have to meet several people’s needs at once, have many stages of development to understand and respond to, not to mention different personalities and group dynamics! The book attempts to give some practical ideas on how not only to begin to offer this work, but also to demonstrate through the practice examples how powerful this work can be!


The activities you’ve developed were borne out of 20 years of experience. How did the activities come about, and was there a moment when the activities started to take shape as a collection?

The individual activities usually come about by thinking about a family/individual, knowing what I need to do with them, and trying to match that with something they will enjoy/respond to. Ultimately most activities are transferable to other children/parents with similar interests or situations.

Can you recall your most cherished memory with a service user?

I really don’t know – I make new ones every week! Today a mother whom I worked with a long time ago brought her little girl in to show me how smart she was in her new school uniform. The little girl was smiling, proudly showing me her new shoes and telling me happily about her new teacher. I was with them not more than five minutes but that meant so much. When I first met the family, the mum was very defensive and didn’t want to work in partnership. The little girl’s needs were not met on any level – poor hygiene, not enough food and poor school attendance to name but a few of the issues and now look! If you enjoy all the small achievements, and the not-so-small ones, your work brings constant rewards.

What do you feel has been the biggest achievement in your career thus far?

Still being in social work! Largely due to working in such a great team and getting to work with some of the bravest children you could imagine.


Audrey Tait is a Senior Practitioner with the Children and Families Practice Team, City of Edinburgh Council. She has over 20 years’ experience working with children in social work settings and for the last 6 years has been delivering a training course, Communicating with Children, for the City of Edinburgh Council’s Children and Families Department. Audrey also co-authored the bestselling Direct Work with Vulnerable Children with Helen Wosu.

Learn more about Direct Work with Family Groups








Teaser Tuesday – Downloadable ‘Mini-Maps’ to Encourage Task Analysis for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers is an essential resource of easy-to-use ideas for mainstream and special education teachers. Packed with simple, effective tools to assist in the education of students, the book can be adapted to be used with young children and older learners with a Rogers_Visual-Supports_978-1-84905-945-9_colourjpg-webrange of educational needs, including nonverbal learners.

‘Mini-maps’ help students with autism spectrum disorders organize big chunks of the day into smaller more manageable parts to promote understanding and encourage predictability of upcoming activities.

Why mini-maps are effective:

  • Task analysis is one of the teaching techniques included in ABA.
  • Task analysis is a process by which a task is broken down into its essential or component parts.
  • Students with autism and other special needs benefit from a task analysis in order to complete tasks that seem unclear or overwhelming.
  • Breaking a task down into smaller chunks visually, incorporating interests and breaks incrementally, works to inform and motivate the student toward the desired outcome.
  • Mini-maps support student understanding and promote independence.

Mini-maps can be created to support any part of a student’s day, in the classroom and at home, including specific tasks and daily transitions. Each map includes photographs of the steps in the sequence to help the student visualize and clarify the process. The student’s interests are incorporated to increase motivation and decrease stress.

This resource is designed to be accessible to all and can be used by teachers, professionals and parents.

Download sample mini-maps here

Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Special Educational Needs by Lisa Rogers is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

C’mon everybody – get writing!

Vanessa Rogers is the author of Working with Young Women, Working with Young Men, Let’s Talk Relationships, 101 Things to Do on the Street amongst others. In this article she gives her writing tips for aspiring authors. And, if you’re feeling inspired feel free to send in your proposals to

They say that there is a book in all of us, and judging from the number of emails and Tweets I get from people in the youth work and social education field inspired to write their own, it would certainly seem to be true. So this is a collective response to those of you who have asked me for ideas of how to start writing, and to share my personal experiences of writing a book. I hope it is useful – but please remember this is only my way, which I made up as I stumbled along the way.

When I start a new resource book it is because the subject holds a compelling fascination for me. For example, Working with Young Women (Jessica Kingsley Publishers ISBN 9781849050951) came out of lots of girls’ groups that I was facilitating at the time. The young women came to the group because they had been identified as at risk of offending and aggressive behaviour, but the more I got to know them the more I thought that a lot of their behaviour was actually a response to the bad relationships they had with their peers, parents and boy/girlfriends. It seemed to me that their anger and aggression was a coping mechanism that until now had worked for them. So, this made me question how young women can build a sense of self, gain confidence and assertiveness, look at the role models they have and their aspirations for life – in a way that is interesting, non-judgemental and fun. After all, through the group work I was basically asking them to change their existing coping behaviour, (which whilst not necessarily socially acceptable to all, gave them the kudos and ‘respect’ they sought), to take a chance of being vulnerable and exploring things that hurt to find a better way with me. But it seemed that this was the foundation for everything else – e.g. if you value yourself and your body you are more likely to respect it and look after it.

So from here, as for every other book I have written, I devised a series of questions that I wanted to answer. These help me keep focused and distill the essence of what I am trying to do.

After that, I spend about 3 months researching the topic. I do this by reading around the subject and trawling the Internet for ethical and correct data and statistics, but also by speaking with other practitioners and as many young people, or in the example above as many young women, as I can, to ask my questions and test out some of my theories. By now I usually have at least one box file filled with clippings and stuff, as well as my trusty notebook (I always have at least one hardback notebook on the go) filled with points to remember and ideas for games, quizzes or activities.

One thing; all of my session plans have to be tried out with young people before I will include them. For me, this part is one of the rules of my work to keep it ethical and grounded – it has to have been tried and tested and I have to know that young people will learn from it and more importantly enjoy doing so.

As I write constantly this means that I often have ideas stashed on my computer that are developed later when the opportunity presents itself. I try my best to include lots of learning styles in the activities and this might mean that I write the same learning outcomes three times, with three different ideas for delivering them. So, as I try them out with young people I use the one that goes best and dump the rest. I also ask young people to give me feedback as the book comes together, which I value as they don’t hold back if they think it won’t work!

Once this is done, I stick my main points on bits of paper around my desk and tell everyone that I am going to be ‘writing’. To my family this means that I am likely to be distracted, a bit bad tempered and the dinners will be rubbish for a while – but the good news is that I will be in the house for days on end and easily tempted to buy take-aways!! To my friends it means that if I do see them I am probably going to bore them witless by obsessing over my blossoming (or not) book. All training and other work is put on hold. And then – I write it.

I tend to write ‘all over’ my books – meaning that I might write part of the intro, then get a bit stuck so move on to one of the later chapters.  It may look chaotic but it isn’t – more like putting a jigsaw together, because by this stage I know exactly what I want to write and how it will look at the end. I tend to really get into this bit so write day and night, with no adherence to office hours – I actually prefer working through the night so it is pretty usual for me to be writing between 2 and 5 a.m.

Once it is done – which usually takes about 7 days end to end – I put it away for at least 3 days before getting it out and editing / doing the final writing.

Then it is off to Jessica Kingsley Publishers …… and I miss it like mad …… get a bit sad, like at the end of any relationship …… do any edits or re-writes asked of me by the editors and proof readers ….. and leave the printers to get on with it. In my head it is over.

I try and build a break in at this point so that I can have fun with friends and family and shake off the topic that has been all consuming for what might have been up to a year. And then, just when I think that I have had enough of writing, something sparks my interest – and the whole cycle begins again.

I hope this helps – but as I say all writers are different and I am sure you will find your own way of working. My only advice would be, write for you and choose a subject you feel passionate about – if you aren’t at the start, you definitely won’t be at the end! My very best wishes and good luck with it – let me know how you get on.


Podcast: Dr. Petra Kern on how music therapy in early childhood can help children with ASD’s

Earlier this year, the Music Therapy Research Blog interviewed Petra Kern on her work concerning early childhood music therapy with children on the autism spectrum. They published their interview as a podcast, which you can listen to here:

Music Therapy Research Blog interviews Dr. Petra Kern

Petra Kern is co-author with Marcia Humpal of the forthcoming JKP title, Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Petra is owner of Music Therapy Consulting, and  is recipient of the AMTA 2008 Research/Publications Award, editor of imagine, and author of numerous publications. She serves as the immediate Past President of the World Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT), on various editorial boards, and is a frequent international speaker and guest University lecturer.

In Search of Youth Work by JKP author Vanessa Rogers

An interesting and thought provoking article from JKP author, Vanessa Rogers on what it is to be a youth worker today. Vanessa is the author of a number of titles on working with young people including, Working with Young Women, Working with Young Men, Let’s Talk Relationships, 101 Things to Do on the Street, and new from JKP the Little Books on Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Set.

What is Youth Work?

Today I realised that I have been a youth worker for over 15 years, yet I still struggle to explain exactly what that means, especially to someone outside of the profession. It is not a simple answer and I have even been known to say, ‘social worker’ in certain social settings just because it is easier.

The irony is not lost on me; that I am prepared to betray my profession, even though I feel so passionately about it, because I can’t be bothered to explain what I do and that it involves more than playing pool and sorting out squabbles about which track to play next on the iPod in the youth club. Explaining detached youth work is even harder, and has even been met with snorts of laughter at the thought of being paid to wander the streets talking to unknown young people. ‘But what is the point?’ is a constant refrain.

It has not always been so. There was a time not that long ago when it would be hard for me not to weigh in with my views. In fact, many of my ex-students could stand testament to the fact that, ‘what is youth work?’ is one of my favourite assignment titles, and the 500 words produced in response are a constant source of interest and heated debate.

Then it dawned on me that perhaps the sinking heart I get whenever someone asks me what I do for a living is not merely personal apathy, but because I have had the conversation one too many times. The sense of justifying what youth work is, why it matters and the unique place it has in supporting young people – not only amongst friends, family and strangers but also with youth workers and other professionals – has become habitual. I realised that I am a bit tired of the struggle and don’t want to spend time any more time analysing the process at a cost of actually doing it less.

It hasn’t always been so difficult, although I am in no way harping back to some mythical golden age of youth work. I am simply pointing out that if you had asked me 15 years ago what I did my answer would have been pretty easy – an area youth worker for the Youth & Community Service responsible for developing girls work, work with young parents and managing a large and busy youth wing on the site of a school in an area described as ‘deprived’. So far, so clear.

The role of a Youth Worker

Fast forward and my role, but not my professional title, has changed so many times that writing a CV can be a daunting thing. Terminology for the young people, or ‘client group’, has changed from young people ‘at risk’ through ‘vulnerable’ to ‘targeted’; youth services have dropped the ‘ & community’ tag and been variously part of the education, leisure, Connexions and social care departments.

Responsibilities have changed to include meeting parents, undertaking social care assessments, creating community profiles and measuring work by the number of accredited outcomes achieved.
What constitutes ‘youth work’ has changed so many times that it can now be tagged on to virtually any service that works with young people.

But is this a good or bad thing? Is the increase in those using traditional youth work skills to engage with young people something to be celebrated or lamented? All I know is that ‘youth work’ is a notoriously difficult term to describe, and it isn’t getting any easier. The task of trying to find a pithy one-liner to sum up the collective aims of so many different clubs, societies and detached projects is almost impossible.

Perhaps it is that so many people now describe themselves as ‘youth workers’, whilst working in areas more traditionally associated with social workers or youth justice? I have even spoken with police officers that say they do ‘youth work’. Really? Are the professional boundaries so completely enmeshed? Please note this isn’t about professional qualifications, or even the lack of them, more a questioning of how the ethos of voluntary participation and the gradual process of building positive relationships and engaging and empowering young people fits within a law and order or social care framework.

The ethos at the heart of Youth Work

Historically, youth work did not develop just to ‘keep people off the streets’ or to provide aimless amusement, it has always offered social and political education in an informal environment. Good youth work may look as if it just ‘happens’ but the success of it actually depends on good planning, clear aims and measurable outcomes. This ethos should be at the heart of all youth work – especially detached projects. Surely an exciting detached project that motivates young people to get involved should result in more, not less, youths on the street? And that should constitute success?

Put simply, providing young people with a ‘good time’ is not enough. Effective youth work should offer young people the opportunity to meet, socialise, develop new skills, explore the world around them and learn to question and challenge what they see effectively. Detached projects should not be about forcing young people off the streets and away from adult eyes, but more about building trust and developing interesting projects that are relevant to their needs, reflecting the things of importance to them. Which is unlikely to be the same as the media focus on demonizing young people as part of a lawless counter-culture.

As I see it the need to build two-way respect between young people and other members of their community is paramount – after all it is hard to encourage young people to take up their responsibilities and become active citizens if they are treated like social outcasts. Why would you want to be part of something that clearly doesn’t want you?

Perhaps the answer is purely financial. In the struggle to chase funding and secure projects we have been forced to chase the pound, rather than offer what young people truly want. Or maybe as numbers dwindle in traditional old-style youth clubs what’s on offer is simply outdated and no longer meets the needs of teenagers. In that case let’s stop hanging on to the solutions of the past and try new ideas.

Listening to Young People

Young people can be innovative and visionary, with energy and enthusiasm to shape and change the world. To do this they need to find ways to get their voices heard and be able to see that their participation in things like youth councils, forums and consultations actually makes a difference. To be honest, as an adult I am happy to give my opinion on things that matter to me but I get disheartened and then disinterested if nothing ever comes of it and I don’t receive any feedback. Too often I think young people are let down because although they are told that their opinions count, when it comes to money and budgets, they don’t. Participation has to be more than a paper exercise or a way to ‘tick boxes’.

Reclaiming Youth Work

So I think it is time for youth workers to stand up and reclaim youth work by celebrating how different it is to other work with young people. It should be seen as a whole, not as a useful pick’n’mix to compliment other services, and defined in our own terms – whether that is through a Youth Work Academy or some other collective process – before someone else does it for us.

In another 15 years time I don’t want to still be ducking the question, ‘what do you do for a living?’ – I want to be able to say (still with pride), ‘I am a youth worker’, and for that to mean something.

VIDEO: Kate Reynolds’ Top Tips for Planning Parties for Young Children on the Autism Spectrum

Having first-hand experience of the stress that parties and other social gatherings can bring for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions – and their parents – mum and author Kate Reynolds shares some essential Dos and Don’ts for parents and other party hosts, guests and planners from her new much-needed handbook, Party Planning for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum.

See an example of the visual aid party invitation Kate mentions in the video!

Kate E. Reynolds worked for 18 years in various locations in the UK for the National Health Service, as a Registered General Nurse, counsellor, trainer of health professionals and health promotion consultant. When her son was diagnosed with severe autism disorder in 2005, she kept extensive diaries about his progress. She is passionate about supporting parents and caregivers with practical information about autism spectrum disorders. Kate lives in Wiltshire, UK, with her two children, Francesca and Jude.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Have a good airport and flying experience with your child with Autism: Planning for Sensory Issues

Laura Vickers‘ fun new picture book, Flying with Janet, prepares children with ASDs for the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the airport experience – from packing and getting ready to leave home, to traveling to the airport, checking in, going through security, boarding the plane, taking off, turbulence, using the on-board bathroom, landing, and baggage reclaim.

Here are just some of the great tips and advice for parents included in the book:

Before you leave for your trip…

Have your child help make the plan for dealing with sensory issues and choose what they’d like to bring in a “Go Bag.” If she feels she has something she can do in a situation, it gives her a sense of control that reduces her anxiety.


Especially in places with high ceilings and lots of people, for example check-in and security, there can be a lot of echoing background noise. Noise reduction headphones or listening to music from headphones can help. Ear plugs come in many different styles; you may be able to find one your child likes. Bathrooms can be noisy, especially with the loud, unexpected flushes. Carts used by the airline to transport people emit a loud, piercing beeping as a warning.

From the book: "One annoying thing is when the captain makes announcements that are too loud or too quiet. Most of the time, though, the announcements are just right."


If your child is feeling overwhelmed and needs more space in a crowd, we have found it useful to use our adult arms and bodies combined with the luggage to create at least a small breathing space around Janet. She doesn’t like to be touched when stressed, so we can’t just pick her up to raise above the crowd.


Strong smells can happen anywhere, especially in crowded places. As discussed in the book, bringing something with a strong flavor to chew or a favorite perfume or smell to put on a tissue to hold to the child’s nose can help. Places to be especially aware of are drop off/pickup areas (where exhaust builds up) and bathrooms. Also, if it is a warm day, be aware that an aircraft has limited electricity from the time it pushes back from the gate until just before take off; there may be several minutes without air conditioning.


Consider bringing a first aid chemical cold pack and use it to cool down your child if they become too hot. A battery powered mini-fan can also be useful in the heat. If it is cold, don’t count on a blanket or pillow to be provided on the plane. Bring lots of layers, and perhaps chemical warming packs. If your child likes to touch everything, or has allergies like Janet, bring some antibacterial wipes and wipe everything the child might touch.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Helping adopted children develop secure attachment using Family Attachment Narrative Therapy (FANT) – An Interview with Denise Lacher

Denise B. Lacher, MA, a licensed psychologist, is Director of Attachment Programs at the Family Attachment and Counseling Center of Minnesota. Denise joined the Center in 1994 after obtaining her Masters degree in psychology and has presented nationally on the subject of attachment. She has extensive training in attachment theory and the treatment of attachment disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here, she answers questions about the new second edition of her book, Connecting with Kids through Stories: Using Narratives to Facilitate Attachment in Adopted Children, co-written with Todd Nichols, Joanne May and Melissa Nichols.

What is it about stories that makes them so effective in working with children with attachment difficulties, and how did you come to develop the narratives you discuss in your book?

Stories are universal and used by every culture to teach history, traditions and values. Hearing a story, seeing the picture in your mind’s eye, feeling the emotions and experiencing sensations activates the listener’s brain in much the same way as an actual event. This allows the experience of a story to have a similar impact as the real act. Through this medium, utilizing the power of metaphors, parents have the opportunity to “redo” their adopted child’s life.

Our journey really started when an adoptive parent commented, “I wish I could rewind the tape on this kid and start his life all over again.” That statement led to a story about what it could have been like and should have been like for that child – re-doing the narrative of his life. Later we called the story a “claiming narrative”.

After seeing the deplorable conditions in government-run institutions while on a church mission trip, that same parent later established a children’s home in Jamaica. I had no idea what I was getting into the first time my husband and I visited the home. When our children got older, they joined us on our trips. We painted, tiled floors, cooked, did laundry and cleaning and more recently I did some therapy, taught parenting classes, and taught their staff to use stories with the children they cared for on a daily basis. My co-workers Joanne, Todd, Melissa and Connie have also worked in children’s homes; here in United States and in Central America. The work was challenging and exhausting but also confirmed that stories could be used to help children in any situation.

From your personal experience, is there a particular example of a child with attachment difficulties who responded to a story when other types of interventions didn’t make an impact, or had a negative impact? Can you please “tell the story” of this successful case-study with our readers?

Many families contact our clinic after having tried other therapies and interventions without success. They are recognizing that there is not one therapy technique or one parenting method that is going to work with all kids with attachment problems and histories of trauma. Most find success when they begin to rely on their own knowledge of their child instead of professionals and books that promise that their way is the one that works. There is no guarantee that any one therapy will work, including Family Attachment Narrative Therapy (FANT). I believe the key to its success with so many families is that in this methodology, parents are the agents of change and healing. A couple of examples might help clarify this point.

Adopting two young children from another state was an answer to prayer for John and Rachel who had been unable to have biological children. But after a three day drive back to Minnesota, they were already wondering if they had made a mistake. Cory, age five, and his sister Anna, age six, fought with each other the whole way home. Once home they were bouncing off the walls from the moment they woke up to when they finally fell asleep. They destroyed every toy they were given, defied even the simplest request, and refused to go to their rooms or take a time out. The school called almost every day because Cory had pushed or hit another child. Anna would leave class to go to the restroom and just disappear. They could not sit still, disrupted the class and were quickly alienating their peers. John and Rachel read book after book and tried everything they could think of doing. Although John and Rachel thought they had been well prepared for adoption, they quickly realized that they needed help. They chose an experienced therapist but after a few months of play therapy, things were no better at home. Their county provided an in-home therapist but they found that they had to educate her about adoption and attachment issues and they just rolled their eyes when she suggested a sticker chart. Desperate for a quick fix for their children’s behavior problems, John and Rachel chose our intensive program. Through the process of telling claiming and trauma narratives, they discovered the meaning of Cory and Anna’s behaviors. John and Rachel’s view of Cory and Anna changed almost overnight as they made the connection between their behavior and their early history of neglect. They had sometimes been left alone for days at a time. When adults were around, it was loud and chaotic. Cory and Anna had no clue how to be part of a family. John and Rachel started from scratch, teaching them basic hygiene, manners and social skills through stories, demonstration and constant reminders and supervision. They structured the morning and evening routine and structured the weekends to increase their feelings of safety and security. Eventually they changed schools, finding a school with smaller class sizes that was willing to work with parents to accommodate Cory and Anna’s needs. The behavior did not change overnight and there were still many days when they thought they wouldn’t make it, but a year later, much to their surprise, life felt normal and even peaceful. They are even thinking of adding to the family again.

The above story illustrates how important the discovery of the child’s model can be to change problem behaviors. But stories can also have an immediate impact:

Parenting the sixteen-year old son of her adopted daughter, one grandmother was close to sending him back to live with his birth mother. He had every service the county offered: respite, a personal care attendant, an individual therapist and in-home skills worker. This grandmother knew that if he went back to her daughter, he likely would not finish high school and probably end up in his mother’s gang, but she had younger children in the home and could no longer live with his verbal and physical aggression. In our intensive program, she based many of her trauma narratives on the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling. Sitting every day with his eyes closed, she thought he heard every word but could not be sure. She was amazed when he started helping around the house without being asked and even gave her a few hugs. Needing a break from the intensity of the trauma stories, she completed a funny and successful child narrative about a little white haired grandmother that snuck into her grandson’s room to paint his long fingernails a bright shade of red. Eyes closed as usual, he smirked… BUT went home and cut his nails without an argument. The intensive work did not create the perfect kid. There were lots of days when he was his old surly self, but the aggression never approached previous levels.

The book features guidance on how to individualize stories to the child’s needs. Why is this important?

The key to the success of FANT is discovering the unique internal working model of each child. When a caregiver understands the meaning of their adopted child’s behavior, whether it is related to past trauma or developmental needs, the story can be customized to each child. It has been our experience that an individualized story has a greater impact on the listener.

You have just carried out some substantial updates to the book. What can readers look forward to in this new expanded edition?

Over the years many parents have asked us to provide examples of our therapeutic stories. Some just need something to get their creative ideas flowing. Others enjoy nightly story times but sometimes just don’t have the energy to make one up. This edition provides many more story ideas and a new chapter containing full length stories. In addition, we’ve updated the research on attachment, trauma and development. Finally, parents of newly adopted children often struggle to attune to the child and discover what works to help the child regulate their emotions and behavior. This updated edition provides new ways of looking at regulation problems, ideas and resources.

How has the book been used by professionals since the first edition was published? What particular guidance does it hold for them?

Connecting with Kids through Stories, along with other resources like our DVD and study guide, is used by clinics and agencies to coach parents in using narratives to connect, heal and teach their foster and adopted children. Providing both basic information for those just beginning to work with adopted children, and more advanced information and techniques for those parents and professionals, this book has been used as a manual for discovering the child’s unique internal working model and developing healing narratives.

In the book you caution against professionals overshadowing the importance of parents. How are parents the primary agents of healing and change?

In my opinion, no professional can match the parent’s intimate knowledge of their child’s history, everyday behavior, emotional state, needs and abilities. I could meet with a child every week for years and not know them as well as the parents – even if he has only been with them weeks or months. It is that level of attunement and knowledge that makes stories successful.

You and your co-authors work at the Family Attachment and Counseling Center in Deephaven, Minnesota, USA. Can you tell us about the Center and the work you do?

So many people picture our center as a big treatment facility. The truth is we are more like a small family. We have been friends for years and have shared laughter, tears, and of course, stories. I truly love going to work every day. Who wouldn’t? Each day I get to listen to stories that are moving, clever and fun. It is so rewarding to watch parents master this powerful tool and renew hope for their family.

Finally, a strong message in the book is that stories have the power to change behavior and lives. Which stories have had the biggest impact on you?

That’s a tough question for someone that has a book stacked on just about every flat surface of my house because the book shelves are full! I have books that I have read over and over again since I was a kid (Lord of the Rings), and ones that have inspired a lifelong fascination with science fiction and the stars (A Wrinkle in Time). Safely Home is the book that led me to working in orphanages overseas. So many books had an enormous impact on me at different times in my life. But the book I open most often, and have used until the binding and the pages fell off, is the Bible.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

JKP Authors Andrew Nelson and Cindy Schneider share Autism-Theatre Techniques with specialists from Hong Kong

By Andrew Nelson, author of Foundation Role Plays for Autism: Role Plays for Working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parents, Peers, Teachers, and Other Professionals

Fellow JKP author Cindy Schneider (Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger Syndrome) and I have been colleagues and friends for over three years now. We met at the Autism Society of America (ASA) Conference in 2008 and immediately began collaborating on national autism-theatre projects along with other specialists from around the world.

Very early on in our friendship and collaboration we identified a mutual interest in training other autism-theatre practitioners in a “summer institute” style workshop. We wanted to offer thorough training in the theories and techniques used by autism-theatre artists and educators, and to give participants hands-on experience applying new skills with actors on the autism spectrum. This summer, in late July, our dream was realized.

One year ago, a mutual friend of ours contacted me about autism-theatre training for a group of autism specialists from Hong Kong. Mandu James YC Cheung and his wife, Dr. Eva Lai, had previously collaborated with Cindy and me on a project called “Actors in Action” at the ASA Conference. Mandu and Eva asked if I could arrange for a group of six autism professionals from the Caritas organization to come study somewhere in the US. I immediately contacted Cindy and plans were soon underway.

Our new friends from Hong Kong arrived on a Friday afternoon and we immediately dove into an intensive autism-theatre training.

For three days Cindy, myself, and our new partner Chris Nealy demonstrated a variety of activities from books and from our work over the years.

One of my favorite theatrical tools is the mask. Masks can be used in a wide variety of ways to teach emotion recognition, body awareness, emotional expression, subtle social cues and postures, etc. This particular set of masks was designed and created for me by my friend Doug Berky, an actor and mask maker from Indiana. In the photo (below) we are conducting a role play and using masks to depict the emotions often seen in bullying situations, and how different outcomes can change the mask from happy to sad, etc.

We also began to help the trainees develop an action plan for when they returned to Hong Kong. The trainees then spent three and a half days in the field observing many of Cindy’s ongoing “Acting Antics” programs in a variety of settings around her home base in Pennsylvania. They were also given the opportunity to work directly with actors on the spectrum, implementing new techniques learned in the previous days’ trainings.

By the end of the seven day intensive, we group of trainers had developed a very lovely friendship with our six new friends from Hong Kong. We laughed together and spent time discussing how the experience was going to be put into action in their communities.

Overall, I believed we learned as much as trainers as they did as trainees. We were especially honoured when the participants presented us with original art created by artists with developmental disabilities in Hong Kong (pictured left).

Cindy, Chris and myself hope to stay in close contact with our friends to learn about their experiences in the months to come. We also hope to be able to offer similar experiences to others with an interest in autism and theatre in the future.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011