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The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome

By Jeff D. Kraus

Summary: The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide, written by self-advocate and self-described “Aspie” Jeff D. Kraus, provides easy-to-digest information for tweens and teenagers on Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as for the adults in their lives, and shares advice on how to handle a variety of situations that can be challenging for autistic individuals, for example how to handle transitions, sensory sensitivities, and social awkwardness; and how to deal with stress, get around independently, handle bullying, and channel strong interests, among other topics. The personal anecdotes and informal tone, as well as practical information on handling challenges successfully, from someone who has “been there, done that” not long before he wrote this book, can be reassuring , especially for kids dealing with daily challenges and becoming their own self-advocates.

Why we recommend this resource: This book was written for a tween- and teenage audience but has sections in each chapter for parents and professionals who work with autistic kids and teens, so they can get a first-person perspective from a young adult on what it’s like to have autism. Jeff Kraus provides especially helpful insights into how to advocate for your child’s education and keep communication open with your child about their experience in school; how to support your child’s social growth without pushing, and how to best support your child’s desire for independence and allow them to follow their own path.

Read our detailed review here

Autism . . . What does it Mean to Me?

By Cathy Faherty

Summary: Parents of autistic children sometimes struggle with the questions of When and How to tell their child they have autism. Some kids develop an awareness on their own that they are somehow different than their peers. Autism . . . What does it Mean to Me? is a user-friendly resource guide that parents can use to guide their children through the process of developing awareness of their strengths and challenges and self-acceptance. This process can help kids advocate for themselves at home, in school, and in the community. The book uses “communication forms” to explain information in a kid-friendly way, using concrete, positive, and supportive language. Each form has a place for children to communicate their own thoughts, feelings, and preference about the information they are learning. Teaching strategies are offered on topics such as the sensory system, ways of thinking, what an IEP is, understanding non-verbal communication, and what a friend is, among other important topics. The many communication forms provided cover younger and older kids.

Why we recommend this resource: This workbook allows your child to speak for themselves about many things essential to their everyday functioning and offers a structured, supportive, and self-paced journey towards self-acceptance and self-determination. The author writes with respect and empathy for autistic individuals.

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Fostering Self-Determination among Children and Youth with Disabilities—Ideas from Parents for Parents

By Katie Weir, Molly Cooney, Martha Walter, Colleen Moss, and Eric Carter

Summary: “Fostering Self-Determination among Children and Youth with Disabilities” is a free online resource that provides concrete strategies parents can use to help their children become increasingly independent. The authors of this guide, all parents of children with disabilities, offer abundant ideas for developing the skills required to become self-determining in 17 categories, such as making choices, problem solving, self-awareness, participation, communication, and self-advocacy.

Why we recommend this resource: Parents are often thirsting for advice on encouraging internal motivation in their children. Parents of autistic children may have the added challenge of motivating children to want more independence. The value of this guide is in having a road map to self-determination and independence that covers many areas of challenge encountered in daily life. Strategies for developing and practicing these skills are offered.

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By Steve Silberman

Summary: NeuroTribes, by author and journalist Steve Silberman, is a fascinating journey through the history of autism, its impact on society, and its future. The book discussed how earlier conceptions of diagnostic categories has confused our ability to measure the prevalence and autism and slowed progress in our understanding of ASD. The author suggests that autism is not a new or rare phenomenon, and that as a society we should—indeed we must, given the prevalence of ASD—advance towards accepting differences in brain wiring because neurodiversity contributes greatly to human development. Silberman discussed several historical figures who made great contributions to progress who may have had autistic traits. The author calls for increased awareness of the need for accommodations in the workplace to maximize inclusion and productivity in a neurodiverse society.

Why we recommend this resource: NeuroTribes is a informative, entertaining, and enlightening, if long, book that provides important insights regarding neurological diversity and what may be possible for our society if we become more open to accommodating for such differences. A shortcoming of NeuroTribes is that it does not spend much time addressing the experiences of people who are more severely impacted by autism.

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Uniquely Human

By Barry M. Prizant

Summary: The central theme of Uniquely Human is that we don’t need to try to “fix” people with autism, but rather modify our behavior and expectations to best support them. The author, Barry Prizant, promotes learning from individuals with autism to understand their unique ways of experiencing and responding to the world, and he recommends focusing on autistic children’s strengths to help realize their potential. The book includes eye-opening first-person accounts by individuals with autism.

Why we recommend this resource: This book is a quick read and offers a refreshing and optimistic perspective. It suggests that when we stop trying to eliminate “autistic behaviors” in our children and focus instead on understanding, supporting, and celebrating their uniqueness, it opens possibilities for their success and happiness in the world.

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I'm Determined!

Summary: The I’m Determined project, a state-directed project funded by the Virginia Department of Education, focuses on providing direct instruction, models, and opportunities to practice skills associated with self-determined behavior. This project facilitates youth, especially those with disabilities to undertake a measure of control in their lives, helping to set and steer the course rather than remaining the silent passenger. Visit the website here.

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