Books for autistic children

My first selection of recommendations aren’t about autism but are books that my 4-year-old autistic daughter loves.

Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer

These books are great for fighting against the idea that girls can’t be scientists and engineers.

Meg and Mog

Despite being over 40 years old, the Meg and Mog series of books is still a winner; the illustrations are bold and bright, the text is incorporated beautifully into the images and the stories are nice and short.

The Princess in Black

The Princess in Black fights goat eating monsters with her trusty steed Frimplepants. The stories are a little dull to read as an adult but they’ve made an impression on my daughter who now enjoys role-playing with her as the princess and my partner and I as either Frimplepants or the goat eating monster. I have just purchased the fifth book in the series, The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare.

Abracazebra

Abracazebra is a great story about how people who are different can make our world a brighter place.

The Bear and the Piano

If you practise, you will get better and if you keep practising you can get really good. This is the moral behind this beautifully illustrated book about a bear who finds a piano in the wood where he lives.

There’s a Tiger in the Garden

There’s a Tiger in the Garden is an enjoyable romp through the protagonist’s grandma’s garden with the application of imagination.

Jill and Dragon and Jill & Lion

Two alternate ways of looking at stories and adventures with great imagery and fold out pages.

Tales From Acorn Wood

The books from the Tales From Acorn Wood series are the first books my daughter became obsessed with after her nursery gave her a copy of one for Christmas. Try reading Postman Bear first, followed by Fox’s Socks and then Rabbit’s Nap and you’ll realise there’s a (probably unintentional) plot arc across the 3 books.

One Ted Falls Out of Bed

I hate to fill this post with books by Julia Donaldson as she gets a lot of promotion already but I wanted to add this book and only just realised she wrote it. It has a great rhyme to it and combines cunting up and counting down.

Aaaarrgghh Spider!

It is impossible to filter every influence in your chid’s life, my daughter became scared of spiders despite us never freaking out at them at home. I bought this book as part of a strategy to make spiders more friendly.

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet

A book that says you can do anything you want no matter what other people say. If you want to be a ballerina then you can.

I Want My Hat Back

This book is simply funny, especially if you give the characters funny voices.


Birdsong

Birdsong is a simple but funny story, no moral or lesson to learn but quite funny.

Construction toys for autistic children

Construction toys are great for lining up, stacking, connecting, building dolls houses, cars fortresses or just about anything a child’s imagination can dream up. The great thing about most construction toys is that their abstract design appeals both to the role-players who want to build a dream home for their dollies and to the future engineers and designers.

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The cure for autism

As a mum to an autistic child, I have found some great communities online and found some great information; unfortunately, I have also seen the dark side of autism on the web. There are many claimed medical cures for autism; some are dangerous all are bogus. The only purpose these cures serve is to distract parents from what they should be doing; loving, supporting and protecting their family.

I have listed just a few of these so-called cures below:

ABA Applied Behaviour analysis

ABA is the most widely used therapy for autism, but it is controversial. Many autistic adults who have gone through ABA criticise ABA as it coerces autistic children into conforming to neurotypical standards of behaviour instead of giving them management strategies that will actually help.

Aversive Conditioning

Aversive conditioning is dog training applied to children. It does not cure autism but teaches the child to bottle-up their problems inside leading to mental health problems in later life.

CEASE “therapy”, Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression

The name says it all for me ‘Elimination of Expression’. In other words ‘behave normally’.

Chelation/TRS/CEASE

Chelation is a fancy term for detoxification. Advanced Toxin and contaminants Removal System (TRS essentially makes the same claims).

Detoxing can only remove what is currently in your stomach or gut. If you think the contents of their stomach or bowel is the cause of a child’s autism, then you should probably reconsider the junk you are feeding them in the first place. There is no such thing as toxins in a biological sense, and any attempt to use activated charcoal or other such chemicals will lead to loss of positive nutrients. Long term use of such treatments will likely lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.

Chiropractic manipulation

Systematic reviews of this research have not found evidence that chiropractic manipulation is useful for any condition, let alone autism, the
touchy manipulation involved in the treatments may be traumatising for some autistic people.

Chlorine/Chlorum, MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution), sodium chlorite, hydrochloric acid and Borax

Chlorine is good for cleaning swimming pools and toilets, it really won’t cure a neurodevelopmental condition.
Miracle autism cure’ seller exposed by BBC investigation https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-33079776 other chemicals have no proven benefit.

Clay baths

If you want clean skin and an excuse to sit in a bath in peace and quiet for half an hour, then go ahead, I imagine your autistic child would love splashing around in a bath of mud too but it won’t do anything to cure autism.

ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)

The use of ECT in autism has never been systematically assessed.

EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques)

“Tapping provides relief from chronic pain, emotional problems, disorders, addictions, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical diseases”. If only life and its ills were so simple to fix. EFT is plain old pseudoscience.

Gluten-free diets

There appears to be a higher incidence of gut problems in autistic children. In such cases, it is vital to seek medical advice to determine the cause. Gluten-free diets are not healthier for people who do not have a gluten intolerance. Products labelled as gluten-free often have higher sugar content to replace the missing gluten. Eliminating an ingredient from the diet may seem like a safe thing to do but eliminating an ingredient without meticulous substitution can lead to whole food groups being withdrawn, leading to vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

GcMAF/Pig secretin/GAPS diet

Unproven quackery hanging from the coat-tails of real scientific research.

High dose vitamin C

High doses of vitamin C act as a purgative, quacks claim that this detoxifies the body of the vaccine toxins that they claim are the cause of autism. The best that this method could achieve is to purge the body of something bad the child has eaten in the last few hours. Even if the child has toxins from a vaccine, forcing them to throw up will achieve nothing at all. High doses of vitamin C can lead to diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal cramps, headache and insomnia. Causing vomiting could lead to severe dehydration.

Holding Therapy also known as Wrapping or packing

In the 1960s, it was believed that autism was an attachment disorder caused by poor parenting. The professionals who promoted this therapy ignored the fact that the parents often had neurotypical children too. This ide of cold parenting led to the idea of ‘Holding Therapy’, an intervention involving forced eye-contact and prolonged holding of the child.

Juice Plus+

Vitamin supplements aren’t a terrible idea if your child has a limited diet, but there is no evidence that expensive brands will work any better than a supermarket multi-vitamin. No amount of vitamin or mineral supplementation will cure autism.

Urine therapy, Camels Milk, Acupuncture, Cupping, Reiki

Just no.

Vaccine Refusal

Andrew Wakefield is a discredited former doctor who became an anti-vaccination activist. He was struck off the UK medical register for unethical behaviour, misconduct and dishonesty for authoring a fraudulent research paper that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine bowel disease and autism.

Extensive research has proven that there is no relationship, causal or otherwise, between vaccines and autism. Nevertheless, anti-vaxxers continue to promote myths, conspiracy theories and misinformation linking the two. The effectiveness of vaccinations in the second half of the 20th century has led to complacency amongst parents who no longer know people who have died from or suffered debilitating effects from measles, polio and other infectious diseases.

Zinc

Studies have linked autism and zinc deficiency though nothing has yet been seen in humans. Giving a child Zinc is risky as taking too much zinc reduces copper absorption, which can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones. If you must try this cure, ensure your child has a balanced diet of fresh foods such as meat, shellfish, legumes and chickpeas and include copper-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, shitake mushrooms and organ meats.

Love, understanding, support and flexibility

While these won’t ‘cure’ your child, they will help you learn what your role is as the parent of an autistic child.

Love is the basis of all of the others.
Understanding is something that takes time but will help you pre-empt stresses and melt-downs.
Support will help your child achieve their potential.
Flexibility will save much stress for you and your family as you realise that screen time worries, modern parenting fads and typical kids activities are for neurotypical kids and that you have to find your own path.

What causes autism

Nobody really knows what cause autism; it may be a mix of genetic and/or environmental factors. Autism often runs or clusters in some families or generations of families, but it can also appear out of nowhere. It’s common for identical twins to both be autistic but not always so. There are variants of genes that when present, lead to a genetic predisposition to autism but having those genes does not guarantee that you would be autistic. This strengthens the case that genes and environment may work together.

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Morning routines

I have seen many people ask for advice about getting their neurodiverse children out of the house in the morning or complaining about how they can never get to places on time. I have a young girl on the autism spectrum and have never found mornings to be particularly difficult. I suspect it is because of how I manage the morning routine for my own sanity rather than for my daughter’s. I keep my morning routine as minimalist as possible. I have never been a fast mover in the morning so having a slow and relaxed pace is as good for me as it is for her.

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What is the difference between high functioning and low functioning autism?

High versus low functioning autism is probably the most common misconception related to autism spectrum condition. Unfortunately, the word spectrum gives credence to the low versus high concept. The spectrum really means that autistic people are as different to each other as they are to allistic or neurotypical people. We don’t consider red to be more functioning than violet; it is just on a different part of a diverse spectrum.

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Autism, autonomy and privacy

Imagine meeting someone, you really like, getting up the courage to ask them out and them saying yes, only to later be rejected for no apparent reason. Imagine applying for jobs and never hearing anything despite having a good CV that you’ve worked really hard on. Or imagine, walking through the playground at school and noticing people looking at you, looking away and then giggling with their friends? All entirely different incidents, but all stemming from a single action.

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