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on October 27, 2005
Ellen Notbohm's Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, an extension of her article "What Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew" speaks to children's wishes and the choices parents can make to honor them. Its soul triggered in me a CliffNotes' synopsis of Aristotle's contention that "choice (as determined by deliberation) is concerned with means to an end. Wish is concerned with the end."*

And so begins Ten Things, with the first wish of a child - that he or she be known by one word, and one word only - "child," and not squelched by the label "autistic child." It ends with the child's final wish - that he receive unconditional love and acceptance. The remaining eight wishes tucked in between provide insight into the tools (via choices parents can make) that will honor, empower and respect their precious children and make all their wishes come true.

Ten Things zeros in on the importance of sensory issues and thoroughly explains their direct link to a child's behavior. Ellen reminds parents that "seemingly inexplicable behavior ... all have a sensory cause ... No matter how unprovoked, how random it may appear, behavior never comes out of nowhere." She guides parents through reformatting their own beliefs and suggests ways to identify and work with the child's sensory structure.

Ten Things addresses those infamous "meltdowns," explains the four trigger clusters, and offers suggestions on how to identify their underlying causes. Ellen acknowledges that it's hard work for parents to actively seek out reasons for those meltdowns rather than chalk them up to an out of control child that could do better if he wanted to. By her own diligence, and with the help of qualified professionals, meltdowns are a rare happening in her home now.

Ten Things reminds us that our children are concrete and visual thinkers and they interpret language literally. Ellen explains why idioms don't work and how we can train ourselves to speak concretely and say what we mean to help our child understand since any communication that doesn't make sense to a child simply won't get through. Without helping him develop a functional way to communicate his needs, fears and wants, they will take any shape they want, which means they'll generally manifest in the form of behavior.

Ten Things provides techniques to construct a visual strategy to help a child to navigate his day, which will quite naturally and over time contribute to improved social interactions and the creation of a solid self esteem, the foundation for social functioning. And for the child's sake, Ellen implores parents to remember and believe that he's trying the best he can with his limited abilities and social understanding. Any other belief system will short circuit the route for him to become a functioning citizen in our world.

That said, and in the spirit of Aristotle, Ellen makes it clear that we as parents and teachers and caregivers are the means to our child's end.

Without doubt, the word 'autism' strikes fear in the hearts of parents, and Ellen makes no bones about it. She speaks candidly about her own initial grief and despair when her son was diagnosed - those instantaneous images of her child locked inside his own head, never able to interact properly with the world and become self-sufficient.

Those thoughts and perceptions became the energy behind her "can-do" attitude, her intensive and pro-active approach, and her battle plan against a self-fulfilling prophecy of hopelessness for her little boy. She recognized the potential within him; a potential present in all children waiting to be noticed and built upon, and not just fixed. It didn't take long for her to realize that she would not change her son, even if she could. "I wouldn't have him be anything other than exactly what he was ..."

A child's wish of unconditional love - granted.

Ten Things champions the cause of helping families discover their strengths. It validates everybody's capabilities and possibilities. It addresses early confrontations with "can't do" and redirects the focus onto what children "can do." It offers a roadmap for avoiding what Ellen calls the "swamp of unmet expectations," the place where a child's "potential goes to die if parents don't detach their personal aspirations from their child's."

Ten Things is all about parental choices:

' choosing between negative and positive thinking (he won't do versus he can't do);
' choosing to live in the dark rather than the light (frustration versus empowerment and patience);
' choosing to limit themselves and their child by trying to bend him to their will by forced compliance rather than focusing on his gradual acclimation to the mysterious nuances of daily life that create havoc in his world;
' choosing to move beyond the bitterness, grief and disappointment that they didn't "get the child they were supposed to get," and open their minds to becoming the parents they have been called to become.
' choosing a rewarding direction for their life, their child's life, their family's life.

Read Ten Things. Absorb it. Then read it again and again. Learn from it. Trust it. Find your strength. Choose well for your child. Make all his wishes come true.

*Online CliffNotes for Aristotle's Essays on Ethics.
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on May 30, 2006
I have read through dozens of books pertaining to Autism and within this one book I found more useful information than anywhere else. This book is not just for parents and therapists, but also for family members adjusting to life with a child who has Autism. It helps you get inside the head of a child with Autism, and understand the struggles and pain these children face every single day.

The ten things the author lays out are simple, but essential in understanding and helping the child. She provides examples in terms that people without Autism can relate to in order to better understand certain behaviors. The recovery process is different for every child, but the information in this book will without a doubt help any family get on the road. Open your heart and read this book to really understand.
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VINE VOICEon June 6, 2007
This stellar book provides a logical list of ten basic precepts that every person, child or adult with autism would like for the neurotypical (NT) world to know.

People, children in particular are people first, not "autistic child, autistic person." Autism is a shorthand label for specific behaviors that are rooted in neurobiology. In short, autism is a sensori-neurobiological condition.

The main theme and the common thread that links the ten items on this "wish list" of sorts is extending basic human courtesy to people with autism. Readers will be provided ways in order to help honor the rights, dignity and best interests of people with autism. Parents and educators in particular will take this book to heart.

This author translates seemingly bizarre behavior to the neurotypical world. All behavior has a sensory base. Many people with autism have hyperacute hearing. Show me someone with autism who doesn't hate loud noises and I'll show you a singing Boston bulldog who can tap dance as well. All sensory modes are heightened in people who have autism. Smells are stronger; certain materials are unbearable to the touch and in some cases painful; tastes are very strong; the sight of certain things can elicit strong reactions that are either very positive or very negative. I knew people with autism who hated blinking lights and retreat or cover their eyes when in the presence of a light that blinked on and off.

Beatle fans with autism are a very interesting group indeed. The mere sight of a Beatle picture brings strong positive reactions; the Beatles' music triggers a series of highly positive responses as well.

This brilliant book demystifies meltdowns and identifies triggers. In cowboy parlance, this book will help you head them off at the pass. If you can't, you learn when to get out of Dodge fast. As difficult as the process is, it is always worth it and for children in particular, meltdowns are the result of being pushed past a certain point. It's like the 1968 George Harrison classic, "It's All Too Much." That song describes the Overload Experience quite well. "It's all too much for me to see..it's all too much for me to take..."

Some excellent prompts, cues and guides are provided to help children navigate throughout their day. Show me a person with autism who DOESN'T hate surprises/having things sprung on them and I'll show you that same singing Boston bulldog. Echoes of Carol Gray can be heard here; she is famous for her social stories and having children draw social comics to help script and anticipate certain social interactions. This gifted author helps people to see autism in a more accepting light by explaining the behaviors; providing tools of empowerment and keeping the tone of acceptance throughout the book.

This wonderful book makes me think of the 1978 Billy Joel song, "Just the Way You Are." I like the way she says that is an important message to convey to children on the spectrum - we like and love them just the way they are and the goal is to help them have happy, full productive lives and good social interactions and develop confidence.

This book is a giant step towards accomplishing all that and then some.
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on November 16, 2005
This is by far the best resource for learning to understand and work with a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I am a pediatric occupational therapist and I have worked with children on this spectrum for over 23 years. I also have a 5 year old son diagnosed with ASD. I have read many books and attended many conferences on this disorder and this book truly illuminates the core issues of these children. Ms. Notbohm describes the important issues in a clear and easy to understand way and provides examples and practical ideas to help deal with these issues. This book has the potential to change the lives of these children and their caregivers as it will increase understanding-with understanding comes acceptance and with acceptance these children can blossom and show the amazing gifts they have locked inside.

This book should be required reading of any student who will be involved in the care of these children and it should definitely be on the nightstand of every parent, caregiver, teacher, aide, bus driver, administrator, etc. of these children!
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on October 31, 2005
I read the book with fervor and anticipation of chapter 9, realizing more and more that everything makes sense. As a grandmother and legal guardian of a 6-year-old boy with autism, I now have a clearer understanding of my little guy and the reasons things set him off (meltdowns), his hearing sensitivities and his frustration when it comes to vocalizing his needs...everything comes together.

I learned that giving in to his moods or sometimes demanding requests is not going to spoil him nor is he a brat, something I knew but suspect others may have thought! Shame on them, eh? Now I can attempt to figure out exactly what he is trying to express and what is bothering him. A tough job, but not an impossible one.

Ellen, how about a compact book with the same contents for young siblings to read?

I will hi-light, mark, re-read and read certain parts of the book to my husband and to other that touch David's life.

This book will be kept in reach.

Carol De Maio
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on February 13, 2008
When I started this book, I thought "what a breath of fresh air!" It seemed so light, focusing on the psychological aspect of autism, which in today's world, seems to go unnoticed. Years ago, autism was thought to be completely psychological. Now the pendulum has swung 180 degrees the other way, and all we ever focus on is the biological aspect of autism. I am extremely interested in the biological aspect, but there are also psychological aspects that warrant attention.

But then she goes into more detail on each of the ten items. This is where I felt like the book self-destructed. There were a couple of themes that I just got tired of hearing, One was a good occupational therapist will help you with x, y, z... All occupational therapists are not the same. And just because you see an occupational therapist, does not mean you child is going to improve. I felt like she was leaving out huge details. What was it that she thought was so great, and why isn't she telling us?

Her lack of details was just annoying. For instance, at one point she's talking about an instance where her son uses echolia (repeating something previously heard verbatim), to answer a question, in this case, she says it's a line directly out of the movie Toy Story. But she never tells us what he said, what was the line? It was an irritating loose end. She does make the point that she read an article written by an adult with ASD where he explained that much of his daily conversation is echolia, which brought her peace. My son still does it sometimes, possibly more than I realize, but it is invisible to 99 percent of the world, so I don't care.
She tells a story about an intervention that was popular in the 90's and how she said "If you do that to my child, I will kill you!" But she doesn't tell us what the intervention was. Again, why bring it up if you won't tell us the details. If it was that bad, why be silent on the subject?

Then there's the constant drumming of "don't try to fix your kid". Well, that's all well and good for her. Her son is verbal, goes to dances, stays at camp for a week, sort of "that's easy for you to say." And in some respects, she speaks out of both sides of her mouth on this subject. In the beginning she made it clear she wasn't going to accept what everyone said about how he wasn't going to ever be able to do numerous things. So she obviously wanted to help her son, possibly even fix him. Had she focused on simply adjusting your slant from fix to help, it would have been more tolerable. She does talk about looking at the good side of ASD, such as instead of lining things up, they are good organizers, but I really felt like she got stuck on semantics, and being politically correct, even though she said that wasn't her taste or style.

On several occasions she criticizes a parent's feelings. For instance, she brings up the vaccine issue while criticizing a parent for being angry that his child was made autistic by the shots. She thinks he's wrong to focus on the damage done to his child, and that he needs to focus on the future. She then says she's not going to get into the question as to whether or not the shots cause autism. Then why bring it up, just so you can criticize the poor man that is devastated his child is autistic? Anger is part of the mourning process; we've all been through it. And don't bring up lightening rod subjects like the vaccine debate then refuse to discuss it.

This book had a great start, but it left me feeling very frustrated. I don't recommend it.
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on March 23, 2006
Absolutely Fabulous Book! Condenses what I've learned over the past 2 years with my son into one well written book. It also is a springboard for what I still need to learn and a gauge for how well I am relating to my own little angel with ASD. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read this book!!! I'm a family doc, but the world of autism was still quite new to me when I found out about my son. This book gave me knowledge, energy, hope, love, inpiration...I can't say enough for it.
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on February 1, 2007
This is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK FOR ANYONE TO READ IF THEY KNOW SOMEONE WITH AUTISM. I give this book my HIGHEST recommendation. My child was diagnosed at the age of 19 months and we have been living in that world for 3 1/2 years. In an attempt to try to find ways to FEEL how she FEELS and THINK how she THINKS, this book really hits the mark!

This book is truly amazing and has helped me understand what my child's needs are. I work to empathize with her on all levels to create educational items for her and other children with Autism. My name is Laura Behrendt and I have a website [...] where I have made available items that have successfully helped my child and other children with Autism.

Understanding your child's mind is the most important tool for helping them. I give this book to any relative that really wants to understand and support her.
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on November 11, 2005
Buy this book for everyone who interacts with your child, including moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, friends, teachers/special education service providers, babysitters, pediatricians, and the next person you meet whose child is newly diagnosed with ASD...

This is the book I wish I'd had when our son was diagnosed with ASD years ago. I am on my second reading... There is so much info packed in there -- I laughed and cried, and mostly didn't want the book to end. An important book that will make a positive difference in the lives of people living with autism.
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on March 17, 2006
I found this book to be wonderful! As a mother of a 13 year old boy with Autism and a public school elementary teacher; I found the information well written and offered an insight into the world of children with Autism! I highly recommend this book and have been passing on my copy to everyone who cares about my son!
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