Author Bryna Siegel defines the purpose of this book as "to guide teachers, therapists, and parents who are directing the development of children with autistic spectrum disorders." Mainly, it is about how these children learn and how to teach autistic children based on their individual learning styles. Autism is different in each person who is diagnosed with it. Unlike many disorders, there is no one correct way to teach someone with autism. Over the past fifteen years, the diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders has been fine-tuned and improved, but so has the controversy on the best approach to treatment.
Part I focuses on The Fundamentals of Autistic Learning Styles. It discusses the possible origins of autism, how learning proceeds, autistic learning disabilities and how these contribute to autistic learning styles. Some of the language in these chapters is highly technical and is not written for the reader casually interested in the subject. Chapters are divided into sections and words are clearly defined, but this might not be the book to start with if one is new to the diagnosis. I can mostly see it useful for those directly involved with teaching and therapy situations, and parents who have had some training and perspective on the disorder.
Part II discusses learning styles. Social, communication for both non-verbal and verbal children, objects, and daily living skills are all explored. Different treatment styles are covered and success rates, strategies, and reinforcement is clearly defined. Questions such as "should I spank an autistic child?" and different strategies for handling situations will be extremely helpful to parents who are looking for practical advice. This section is much more applicable to parents and is not too technical to understand and apply.
Part III talks about different methods of teaching children with autism. Applied Behavior Analysis, TEACCH, mainstreaming, model programs, and IEP are all thoroughly discussed and analyzed. Again, I think parents need a bit of perspective before tackling such detailed information. I have a friend with a son who has been diagnosed with autism for three years. I had her look through the book and make some comments to me. She agrees with a great deal of the information (her son attends Applied Behavior Analysis therapy) but also cautions that it's a gradual learning process for parents as well as their children.
Helping Children with Autism Learn is a valuable book but must be taken, not as a "bible" of information about autism, but as one source to be processed and taken as a part of an entire treatment regime. This book is a valuable resource and can be a helpful part of any parent's or educator's library.