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The Autistic Spectrum, what with its lack of a pedantic approach, appeals to the parents it is intended for, as well as teachers, students, and interested individuals all the same who are intrigued by autistic spectrum disorders. Lorna Wing, a medical doctor and mother of an autistic person, divides her book into three parts: the first is a description of autistic disorders, ranging from the nature of autism to demographic factors and specific autistic behaviors; the second is a discussion of problems facing the family members of those afflicted with autism, offering guidance as to the development of the potential of autistic children; the third section, entitled “Ways of Helping” (174), lists various services available to parents of autistic children.

In Part I of The Autistic Spectrum, Wing initially clarifies that there are no tests to prove the basis of autism, as the diagnoses depend entirely on an observation of the “triad of impairments” (5). The triad of impairments is in no way universal, limited, or present in every diagnosed child, but may include delay and abnormality in development of speech as well as odd voice intonation. Imagination impairments, repetitive stereotyped activities such as turning objects near the eyes, attachments to inanimate objects, abnormalities of posture, special abilities in random areas, inappropriate behavior such as personal comments to strangers, and epileptic seizures are visible as well.

In Part II of The Autistic Spectrum the emotional investment that parents of autistic children have to make is discussed. Parents may experience guilt upon learning that their child is not normal, and parents of infants may certainly experience denial about their child’s erratic behavior because the child appears to be physically normal. Because afflicted children require so much of their parents’ attention, their siblings may feel cheated or regretful of having an autistic sibling due to lack of attention directed toward them.

“Teaching Basic Skills” (120) is outlined by a few general principles: behavior that is reinforced is more likely to be rewarded; there must be a timing of awards; breaking down skills into easy steps is necessary in teaching an autistic child; prompting is helpful in getting a child to complete a task; allowing the child to stop a new activity before becoming bored with it.

Services available to families include diagnostic assessments, treatment of physical disabilities, clinical as well as school psychologists, social services and family support, and occupational and speech therapy services in educational settings.

The focus of The Autistic Spectrum is to inform individuals of the bewildering and tragic disorders ranging within the autism spectrum, so that they may better understand their human counterparts plagued by disorders impeding socialization, behavior, cognition, and communication. Directed towards parents, this book serves to help parents of autistic individuals, namely. Autistic spectrum disorders are presented in a succinct, informative, yet engaging way, in this book. Because it is so versatile and straightforward, I can conclude that anyone who wishes to learn about autism can do so through this book. The Autistic Spectrum is a fine resource because autism is such an obscurity that honest books are a necessity in understanding one of the most profound disorders of humankind.

The Autism Spectrum is of high personal value to me, as autism is a part of my daily life. I have found this book to be truly helpful in understanding the children that I work with daily who are plagued by autistic disorders. It is an excellent reference and it reassures me in communicating with my students that it is not impossible to do so, in most cases.

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