How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger's. Jennifer McIlwee Myers ~ Future Horizons: Arlington, Texas

Teach Life Skills to Kids

This is a very fun and informative read. The author has a fantastic sense of humor and had me laughing out loud several times. She uses what she refers to as "asides or quick references that are based in geek-think". She does an excellent job of setting the stage: in giving insight into how people on the autism spectrum think and feel and how to best help them. As Temple Grandin has been so vocal about lately, there is a real need for life skills for our folks on the spectrum. What is the good of straight A's, or reading at grade level, if you do not have the skills to share a dorm at college, appropriately structure your study time for maximum benefit and conduct yourself appropriately at in interview. As the author states:

"The nature of schooling and our society mean that children are often judged and ranked by their academic skills. But there are jobs you can hold if you can't read. There are jobs you can hold if you can't write. There are even jobs you can hold if you can't talk. There are few or no jobs you can keep if you yell or scream when you don't get what you expected. There are very rarely jobs you can hold if you can't stop talking when your boss is trying to tell you something. Being on time and being dressed right for that activity are so important to employment that being late to or dressing badly for an interview are job killers."

She talks about the necessity for parents and other caregivers to start teaching these skills earlier, more frequently and in a wider variety of situations with this population. She draws upon her personal experience with Asperger's Syndrome as well as her brother's experience with Autism, giving credit to her parents for focusing on his functionality more heavily than "trying to jam every last scrap of academic knowledge he could possible hold into his brain". "Life skills are about getting a life."

She gives practical exercises for increasing life skills at all levels of functioning, from cutting out items in brightly colored weekly ads and matching these items with the items in the store to Cognitive Behavioral approaches to handling anger, disappointment and depression.

She makes an excellent point that raising kids is a "pay me now or pay me later" situation, not unlike credit card debt. Individuals who have never been taught to make even the simplest purchase at a store will be overwhelmed at the sensory experience, massive amounts of choices, social interaction with clerks, etc. Often times an individual is more disabled by the parents using the easy way of just doing things themselves rather than taking the time to teach the individual the skills involved.

She has interesting perspectives on social skills such as, "apologizing is often a non-optional social convention that has nothing to do with original intent" that leave the reader thinking and analyzing, in a productive way, the skills being taught. She discusses hyperfocus in a clear and comprehensive way and offers techniques to overcome it and to use it to the individual's benefit. She points out how well-intentioning parents, caregivers and educators give feedback that is not in a format that is not usable or effective for children and offers much more effective alternatives.

I recommend this book for anyone who is on the spectrum or whose life is affected by someone on the spectrum of autism.

Bonnie Kimpling-Kelly, Teacher/Behavior Analyst