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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Autism Playbook for Teens (recommended book)

What I really like about the Instant Help books is the level of respect they show their young readers.  The activities in The Autism Playbook for Teens are offered as nonjudgmental, practical strategies for kids with autism to become more independent and to interact more successfully with others.

The activities start with a few simple breathing exercises to try in a comfortable private space, then gradually move up to more challenging activities to try with peers and adults at school and out in the world.

For example, kids can first practice in front of a mirror to see what a mad, sad, or glad face looks like.  This makes it easier to identify their own feelings and then understand the feelings of other people when they have similar facial expressions and body language.

While you are noticing your own feelings, you are also noticing feelings that other people may have that are just like yours.  Learning about your feelings can help you understand what you have in common with other people.  Then what other people do and say will make more sense to you.  This can help you understand how to connect with others, when you choose to reach out and do so.

Most of the activities would be useful for anyone: for example, there’s a suggestion to offer compliments as a way to build positive relationships.  But the explanations are specifically designed for kids with autism.  

So there’s a clear definition of what a compliment is, a description of how it will probably make someone feel, and tips on appropriate and inappropriate times to give a compliment: as in, you’re unlikely to get a positive response if you interrupt a conversation between people you don’t know well in order to blurt out a random compliment.

There are also very clear explanations of:
  • How kids with autism might feel in different situations (for example, in a loud, crowded cafeteria), how their feelings are probably manifested in their gestures and movements, and how other people are likely to respond;
  • How to recognize the warning signs of a meltdown and handle frustration more effectively;
  • What types of behavior to imitate in order to fit in with their peers, when they choose to do so; and
  • Which "scripts" to use in different types of frustrating situations.  For example, it’s more effective to say “I would like to talk with you but I don’t like it when you touch my shoulder” rather than pushing someone away.

While it’s designed as a practical workbook, I found it a fascinating book to read.  It’s helped open my eyes to the challenges and perspective of someone with autism:  a lot of the behavior that may seem odd or disruptive occurs because of not recognizing their own feelings, not knowing how to control their own feelings, or not understanding social cues.  The Autism Playbook for Teens is an outstanding resource to help develop all of these skills.

related posts:

Changing the Script (sample activity from The Autism Playbook)

Mindfulness for Every Student (interview)

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