For the majority of the fifteen years I have been working in, and later, developing and supervising behaviorally based home programs for children with Autism spectrum disorders, I have been at a loss for how to answer the question, “What do we do when we finish the programs in the ‘Me’ book” (Teaching developmentally delayed children: The Me Book by O. Ivar Lovaas)? Finally, I can direct people to a book which provides competent guidance.
In addition to studying the programs detailed in this book, I have had the opportunity to apply many of them while working with Dr. Freeman’s daughter, and later with a variety of other children. These programs have been carefully developed to strengthen areas of deficit which are often idiosyncratic to children with Autism. Unfortunately, talented professionals experienced in working with high functioning Autistic children are few and far between. Individuals lacking this kind of specific experience may not understand how to teach these children the complex skills delineated here, or may not fully realize the amount of repetition these children need before they can actually use certain language skills. With this book, skilled professionals can take a child that much further. Even so, a word of caution is warranted. Anyone working with children with Autism, parents and professionals alike, must regularly seek the advice and consultation of someone experienced in both child development and Autism – someone who can tell you “when” it’s time to teach these skills. Locate someone you trust who can answer most of your questions, but who isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know, let’s find out together”, every now and then.
The ability to ask cogent questions, and to keep asking until the answer is understood, is one of Dr. Freeman’s unique gifts. In the four and a half years that I have worked with and loved Dr. Freeman’s daughter, I have never tried to teach her anything that wasn’t clearly explained and understood. This clarity and depth of perception is reflected in this book. No where else have I seen “why teach this skill” on each and every page. It has always surprised me that no one before this has taken the time to include this many “whys.” Working with these children is simply too important to undertake it without fully understanding why we do what we do.
Good luck to all who teach and love these children. Keep on fighting the good fight.
Shelley Davis, M.A., J.D.
LEAP (Language and Education Assistance for Preschoolers)