Recommendation: Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew

Ellen Notbohm, the mother of two children, one of whom is on the spectrum, has a number of books out about children on the spectrum, acting as the voice for her son. One of them, Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, is now in the ASNL Barbara Hopkins Library. As I was early to Social Club today, I noticed it and decided to read it to see whether I agreed with what was in the book.

My personal answer? It’s excellent. There are some minor things that I disagree with (noted below), but the vast majority of it (and every one of the “Ten Things”) involves points that I am in full agreement with. It’s also both well-written and quite respectful of autistics. (Including the fact that although she uses “child with autism” throughout, she both explains why she prefers not to use the term “autistic”, and also that a number of children, when they grow up, prefer to be referred to as “autistic” rather than “adult with autism”.)

Okay, first things first. This book is not written for autistics themselves (although it’s worth reading from a teen and/or adult autistic perspective), but for parents, teachers, aides, paraeducators, etc., though mostly aimed at parents (she has another book called Ten Things Your Student With Autism Wishes You Knew aimed more at teachers, etc.). It’s written by a mother who feels that this is one of the best things she can do to advocate for her child, and other children on the spectrum – lending her voice to them to encourage understanding. Throughout the book she emphasizes the fact that autism involves being differently abled; in fact, she refuses to use the term “disorder” unless it is part of a “title/name” diagnosis, such as with ADHD. (See my post Revamped Links: Neurodiversity Paradigm for why I approve.) She also strongly encourages people to look at the positives of autism; to reframe their ideas of what exactly challenges are. Again, something I definitely approve of.

The books consists of what I would consider to be four sections. There’s the introduction, in which she tells us about herself and her son, and outlines the chapters (the ten things) themselves. There’s the chapters, each of which covers a different one of the ten things, though there are interconnections mentioned. Then there’s the afterword, thoughts and transitions, and evolution section, which sums things up and talks about a variety of elements including the meanings of the words we use to frame “what is autism” and (because of being a second edition) how things have developed as her son has gone through and graduated high school. And finally, but hardly least important, is the self-reflection and discussion section, which contains lists of questions based on each chapter and section for both self-reflection and discussion among parents, teachers, aides, etc.

With each section and each chapter, she provides examples and details from her son’s life (and hers, as his mother) to help explain and/or broaden understanding of what she is trying to get across.

I’m going to do a rundown of the chapters here, including the titles of each chapter, the basics of what she includes, and what I think of them.

Chapter 1: I am a whole child: In this chapter, Mrs. Notbohm (interestingly enough) uses some of the points that adult autistics use to defend our use of the word “autistic” to defend her use of the term “child with autism”. In essence, she points out that while autism affects everything about how we perceive and interact with the world, it is not the be all and end all of our existence. We are not defined wholly by our autism, she points out. There are a lot of other elements involved. (I am a writer, an aspiring novelist. I am my cat Imber’s Mummy-Cat. I am my parents’ daughter. I can be as stubborn as a mule sometimes. Autism informs and affects all of these elements of who I am, but it is not everything that I am.)

Although she doesn’t mention puzzle pieces in this chapter (in fact, they are not mentioned anywhere throughout the book – Yay, Mrs. Notbohm!), the title and theme of this chapter can also be taken as a refutation of the “missing piece” element that so many people (I’m looking at you, Autism Speaks) use to define autism.

Chapter 2: My senses are out of sync: Excellent chapter. Really excellent. This chapter goes into each of seven senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, vestibular, and proprioceptive – with an explanation of what the sense is, followed by descriptions of possible reactions to both hyper- (heightened) and hypo- (reduced) versions of these senses. It can’t cover everything, of course, but it gives the basics, including those potential reactions. An excellent starting primer for anyone dealing with autistics (whether child, teen, or adult) about sensory issues. This chapter also mentions meltdowns a bit, in preparation for the chapter devoted to meltdowns.

(No, I cannot say enough praise about this chapter. Why do you ask? 😉 )

Chapter 3: Distinguish between “won’t” and “can’t”: Another very, very important chapter. Distinguish between making a choice about something, and an inability to do or cope with (or whatever) something. This is (I think) the first but not the last chapter to discuss expectations, and not expecting things from your child that they simply cannot give you (at least at that time) because it is literally impossible for them.

Meltdown Reasons from Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm

Meltdown Reasons from Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm


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