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Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: Everything You Need to Know from Autistics, Parents, and Professionals

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Thinking Person's Guide to Autism (TPGA) is the resource we wish we'd had when autism first became part of our lives: a one-stop source for carefully curated, evidence-based information from autistics, autism parents, and autism professionals.

370 pages, Paperback

First published November 28, 2011

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Jennifer Byde Myers

3 books7 followers

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5 stars
46 (44%)
4 stars
35 (33%)
3 stars
13 (12%)
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6 (5%)
1 star
4 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 3 books24 followers
June 24, 2019
This is less a book about autism and more a book about neurotypical parents of autistic children.

There are a few essays from actually autistic people, but for the most part this is from allistic parents of autistic children, as well as allistic "autism experts" - special education teachers, BC-BAs, et. al.

While there is some gentle chastisement of pseudoscientific, biomedical "cures" or "treatments" for autism, it always falls on the side of "parental rights" rather than "parental obligations," and so even the pushbacks against pseudoscience come with caveats that a parent should "do their research." In fact, there is even an essay included that praises Jenny McCarthy and her "work." There is also a lot of focus on ABA as a "treatment" without any reservations or discussions of the ways that ABA can traumatize autistic children who are not given the right to say no to therapy - including an essay from a BC-BA who advises parents about how to get ABA therapy for their child.

As an autistic person, I am walking away with the feeling that I am incredibly grateful that many of the authors in this book were not my mother, my teacher, my therapist. Many of the essays focus on how terribly difficult it is to be the parent of an autistic child and how the parent in question is upset because they wanted to live vicariously through their child but due to neurological differences they are being forced to see their child as a separate human being with their own needs and desires.

So you see a lot of people expressing distress that their child likes to line their toys up, like this is some kind of problem.

I am certain that every single author sees themselves as an "autism superhero" or something, and none of them likely see themselves as lacking empathy. Every single parent in this collection certainly believes that "a parent knows their child best" and sometimes this is said outright. But as an autistic person, I can say that even as a child, my mother/parents did not "know be best" and nor do they now. Honestly, this book was aggravating to read, being an autistic person, it often made me feel quite bad about myself because so much of the book focuses on the misery of having a disabled child. Sometimes the parents are even outright comparing their experience as parents with others - as in, they express jealousy of the parents who have non-disabled children - but show no self-awareness to the fact they chose to have children and should have been aware that disabled people exist.

Individual essays in this collection may be useful, but even in those cases there is usually something else on the same topic available with less problematic literary companions. I would not recommend this book as a whole to anyone, although a few essays could be seen as useful in some specific scenarios.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
132 reviews10 followers
May 16, 2012
I wish I would have had this book when we first began to suspect that Max had autism.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
51 reviews5 followers
June 14, 2018
Outstanding collection of essays by parents, autistic individuals, therapists and educators. I especially appreciate the articles debunking the pseudoscientific “cures” for autism (although Holly Robinson Peete defends her friend and fellow celebrity Jenny McCarthy, whose name appears quite a bit). This book should be mandatory reading for all parents of a child on the spectrum. I wish I’d read it years ago.
Profile Image for Lee Wilkinson.
Author 4 books3 followers
June 23, 2012
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with no known cause or cure. Unfortunately, families are often exposed to unsubstantiated, pseudoscientific theories, and related clinical practices that are ineffective and compete with validated treatments, or that have the potential to result in physical, emotional, or financial harm. The time, effort, and financial resources spent on ineffective treatments can create an additional burden on families. Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, edited by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Byde Myers, Liz Ditz, Emily Willingham, and Carol Greenburg is intended to provide a “toolkit” of reliable information and experienced perspectives from “autism parents, autistics, and autism professionals” on which to make rational and informed autism-related decisions.

The book is a collection of 70 short personal essays, most of which were previously published or appeared on blogs and internet websites. The audience is primarily parents of children with autism, family members, individuals on the spectrum, and others who have been personally touched by this complex disorder. The content covers a wide range of topics, including advocacy and rights, neurodiversity, sensory issues, schools and education, adults on the spectrum, behavior management, relationships, employment, inclusive education, medication, and controversial therapies. The essays are organized by topic and include the following sections: 1. After the Autism Diagnosis: First Steps, 2. Practical Advice for Autism Parents, 3. Caregiving and Autism, 4. Therapies and Service Providers, 5. Causation and Dubious Therapies, 6. Acceptance & Inclusion from the Parent/Neurotypical Point of View, 7. Autism-Adult Voices, 8. Autism-Parent Voices, and 9. School and Education Issues. A section containing resources (books, movies, online resources, and blogs) follows the compilation of essays.

The essays offer a broad range of helpful information, guidance, and practical advice and are best described as “research-informed” opinions. The section dealing with “Causation and Dubious Therapies” warrants particular mention as it reflects the book’s overarching goal of providing the reader with clear, reliable information and experienced perspectives on the myriad alternative interventions and treatments for autism. There are no known interventions or treatments that can cure autism, and there are very few which have been scientifically shown to produce significant, long-term benefits. Essays in this section address complementary and alternative medicine (or CAM) treatments such as elimination diets, dietary supplements, and biological agents that are not generally supported by scientific research. As the editors so aptly note in the book’s introduction, “…the best defense against pseudoscience is to apply your best critical evaluation skills. Thinking critically is one of the most important actions we can take for those we love, and for ourselves.”

Overall, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism provides a much needed rational and critical thinking approach to the confusing array of unproven methodologies, anecdotal claims, and pseudoscientific practices which appear to be so prevalent in the autism community. It also does much to promote a “positive psychology” of autism by moving beyond agendas and embracing both awareness and acceptance. Autism professionals will also find this book a helpful resource for understanding the perspectives and daily challenges of individuals and families whose lives have been affected by autism.

Profile Image for Scott.
161 reviews13 followers
June 19, 2013
The best easy to read book I've found that cuts through much of clutter and noise regarding autism. This book is especially recommended if you want to steer clear of Jenny McCarthy style pseudoscience. It's an assemblage of years of blog posts by various writers, grouped by subject, covering the wide range of issues that an autism diagnosis raises.

While I found some parts more useful than others and skimmed some sections, it's an absolutely essential book for anyone dealing with this diagnosis.
Profile Image for Ariane Zurcher.
6 reviews5 followers
June 16, 2012
This is the book I wish had been around when my daughter was first diagnosed.
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