Necessary reading for passionate, involved parents of autistic children

Carolyn Bahm "Writer, reader, mom, & perpetually curious person."

A Candid Review of Step Ahead of Autism submitted by Carol Bahm

Step Ahead of Autism comes highly recommended, and not just by me. The noted pediatrician, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, says this book can be inspiring and empowering for parents of children with autism. I agree: it’s useful both as an interesting story and as a guide for navigating this path youself.

Step Ahead of Autism describes the journey of one autistic boy and his mom through early diagnosis, treatment and successful integration into the broader world of college life. It’s also a thoughtfully prepared and detailed workbook written in a straightforward and conversational tone by a mother who’s clearly “walked the walk” of rearing a child with autism. It’s not a perfect walk, and that’s actually a good thing; the author talks about some lapses in judgment (such as complacency) and how she turned those into learning experiences. I think it will be a great tool for parents wanting to develop sharper observational skills (and wanting to know what behaviors to observe), interact more effectively and sensitively with their autistic children, communicate more meaningful information to their children’s caregivers, and be better advocates. And the text — though plainly written — is not a dry and dusty how-to list; the author wrote not only from experience but also from her heart. I was moved by something in each chapter.

I read “Step Ahead of Autism” because the topic interests me, not because I have a child with this disorder. But if I were in that situation, I would consider this book to be the calming hand of a good friend, patting me on the back and telling me to take a deep breath, realize my child is still wonderful, and roll up my sleeves to do the many things I can do to help my child. And I would rely on this book to give me the structure and focus to actively monitor and manage my child’s development.

Some of the goodies in the book include:
* A pre-screening checklist and an observation log
* A chronicling of all the medical, academic and community resources one parent relied upon to help her child — useful if you want inspiration on resources to explore
* A tip sheet of do’s and don’ts when delegating responsibility for your child to another person
* A nurse’s perspective on how to work best with healthcare providers
* A parent’s perspective on what a school’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) is and how to use it to strengthen your child’s support system rather than allow it to be limited
* The story of learning “how to row a little boat” (breaking down a seemingly insurmountable task into manageable steps until mastery is achieved)
* Suggestions for developing an ongoing parental support system

I think this is a really good support tool for a parent of a special-needs child. A copy ought to be in the library of every school, city, church and hospital. It’s worth it.

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