There have been huge advances in our ability to diagnose autism and in the development of effective interventions that can change children's lives. In this extraordinary book, Lynn Kern Koegel, a leading clinician, researcher, and cofounder of the renowned Autism Research Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara, combines her cutting-edge expertise with the everyday perspectives of Claire LaZebnik, a writer whose experience with a son with autism provides a rare window into the disorder. Together, they draw on the highly effective “pivotal response” approach developed at the center to provide concrete ways of improving the symptoms of autism and the emotional struggles that surround it, while reminding readers never to lose sight of the humor that lurks in the disability's quirkiness or the importance of enjoying your child. From the shock of diagnosis to the step-by-step work with verbal communication, social interaction, self- stimulation, meltdowns, fears, and more, the answers are here-in a book that is as warm and nurturing as it is authoritative.
Clinician Koegel (cofounder of the Autism Research Center at the University of California Santa Barbara) and novelist LaZebnik (Same As It Ever Was), mother of an autistic boy, team up "to show you how intelligent, well-planned early interventions... can improve the symptoms of autism enormously." That doesn't mean that they offer easy remedies to what's practically an epidemic (they estimate 1 in 150 births result in an autistic child). The technique of "applied behavior analysis" (a behavior modification program stressing close observation and positive reinforcement by parents and doctors), say the authors, can reduce the withdrawal and other characteristic behaviors of autism while improving a child's prognosis for intellectual and social development. They organize chapters by behaviors typical of autism, e.g., "Ending the Long Silence"; "Tears, Meltdowns, Aggression, and Self-Injury"; and "Self Stimulation." The coauthors take turns in each chapter, first discussing symptoms clinically and then anecdotally from a parent's perspective. Koegel believes disruptiveness and self-involvement are often attempts to communicate, and suggests ways to tailor replacements for such conduct. LaZebnik adds soothing, often wry first-person advice. As the mother of a boy who "was entirely nonverbal at age two and a half," LaZebnik's good news leavens Koegel's sometimes daunting program of behavior analysis, positive modeling and incentives. Encouraging but realistic, the authors' humane, proactive tactics toward improving autistic behavior will interest parents willing to take a labor-intensive, teaching approach to their child's disorder. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (On sale Apr. 12) Forecast: Parents of autistic children should gravitate to this optimistic guide's bright yellow book jacket, aided by a five-city author tour and national print features. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.