Choosing an Educational book about Autism- Which one is for you?

I review a lot of books on the SEN Resources Blog and as a result I am often asked for my recommendations of books; particularly educational books that teaching professionals can use to further their understanding of Special Educational Needs. One such area that many teachers want to develop their understanding of is autism education.

So over the last couple of months I’ve been reading three very brilliant, but very different books about Autism in Education. My aim being to share with you what each of these books covers and help guide you as to which book is for you (…if not all of them!)

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The three books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently have been:

Teacher Education and Autism: A Research-Based Practical Handbook

Inclusive Education for Autistic Children: Helping Children and Young People to Learn and Flourish in the Classroom

Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum

(*Please note we were provided with review samples of these books and this post is sponsored. All thoughts are opinions are our own)

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I’d thoroughly recommend all three books and find it impossible to choose a ‘favourite’. Each of the books is bursting with current autism education research, personal perspectives and useful strategies for ensuring inclusion of autistic students. However, I do feel each book offers something different so I’ve split them into what I believe to be their biggest strengths. Hopefully this will help guide you when deciding which book is for you.

Best for developing your understanding of the educational needs of autistic girls.

If you’re looking to further your understanding of how autism can be identified in girls as well as making sure autistic girls in your care reach their full potential then this book Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum is a great choice.

What’s it about?

This book is truly wonderful, it’s an incredible collection of research, personal experiences and professional knowledge. It aims to help teachers (other professionals and parents) be able to fully understand the needs of autistic girls in education and as a result ensure autistic girls have appropriate support in schools.

What did I like about it?

– Provides valuable insights into the education system from autistic girls’ point of view- In my opinion, we don’t hear the perspective of autistic individuals when reading books about Autism as often as we should- which is bizarre when you think about it.  This book however, gives a much needed voice to autistic girls, women and their parents. For example, we are taken through the education system by Rachel Salernos (a now 23 year old woman, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Ehler’s-Danlos syndrome hypermobility type) Through her story of her own school life she shares with us the challenges she faced at different levels of education, indicators throughout her life of her being on the spectrum and strategies that helped her. She also gives her opinions on what could have been improved. I found reading about her journey incredibly interesting and valuable. By sharing personal perspectives like this one and the many others in this book, I believe this book has the potential to really help improve autism education in schools.

-Highlights the subtle differences in boys and girls presentation of Autism-

This book covers the history of autism diagnosis and the lack of inclusion of autism in girls in historic research. It also provides useful information about how autism in girls may presents itself differently. This should help teaching professional, SENDCOs and parents refer girls earlier and better support them to achieve their full potential.

Shares Best Practice examples of educating Autistic girls–  This book has some great examples of schools that understand the needs of autistic girls and strive to ensure they reach their full potential. One such example is Limpsfield Grange School which is a special school for girls 11-16 with communication and interaction difficulties, the majority of which are autistic. Sarah Wild, head teacher at Limpsfield Grange School, not only shares how they ensure autistic girls at their school are well and safe, but she also provides a general perspective based on her experience. Sarah Wild’s chapter in this book is a treasure trove of valuable experience, examples, strategies and insight. Her passion and commitment to improving education and society for autistic girls and women shines through the pages.

Another example is Priestnall School, a large comprehensive school, who through reflecting on why education has presented challenges for autistic students, have ensured their needs are considered throughout the school. They share with us  ‘The Saturation Model’ (Morewood et al. 2011) which they developed in partnership with the University of Manchester which ‘provides an overarching structure of provision for all autistic pupils at Priestnall’. One important element of the model is considering the students peer group and ensuring their understanding of autism. This chapter is incredibly useful for schools trying to make sure they too meet the needs of autistic girls in their care.

 

Best hand book on Autism for Continued Professional Development CPD and Initial Teacher Training (ITT)

Teacher Education and Autism: A Research-Based Practical Handbook

What’s it about? Written by Clare Lawrence who has a PhD in autism education, this book is a fantastic handbook for training teachers about autism. This could be for trainee teachers or more experienced teachers who want to further develop their understanding through their continued professional development.

What did I like about it?

Doesn’t presume previous understanding– Some educational books can be quite daunting, especially if you feel  that you don’t have much prior understanding. What’s particularly great about this book is it doesn’t presume that the reader has an understanding of autism. It starts at the basics (chapter one is titled ‘understanding autism’) and builds on it. And in turn, ensures any misconceptions on the way are addressed and corrected. Clare Lawrence covers everything from behaviour management to relationships and sex education in Autism.

Range of Contributors providing different angles  – As Clare Lawrence writes at the start of the book, the contributors to this book ‘have produced a resource that is rich, varied and original’ and I think she’s spot on. There’s a variety of different contributors and without naming all of them, they include senior lecturers in primary education (such as Sarah Howe and Shaun Thompson) , senior lecturers with a background in secondary education (such as Helen Thornally), Jo Cormack who is a counsellor specialising in picky eating,  and wrote  ‘Helping Children Develop a Positive Relationship with Food’ (see our review here) and senior lecturers in autism (such as Dr Luke Beardon). Importantly, as with the previous book ‘Education and Girls on the Autism Spectrum’, this book also gives voice to the autistic community; there is a chapter by ‘Greg’ (pseudonym) who is autistic and a teacher. I found reading Greg’s  perspective incredibly interesting as his own autism gives him a real insight into the needs of autistic children at the school.

– Task and Discussion Sections–  One of the best parts of this book, for me, were the task and discussion sections in each chapter.  They pose questions, provoke thought and encourage discussions. These would be fantastic as part of a series of training sessions for teachers on autism. I personally found them very useful for self study, continuing to develop my own understanding of autism and reflecting on the points made.

 

 

Best for re-thinking and ensuring inclusion of autistic children in your school

Inclusive Education for Autistic Children: Helping Children and Young People to Learn and Flourish in the Classroom

What’s it about? Written by Dr Rebecca Wood, this brilliant book makes you reflect on how your school is including autistic pupils and provides you with tonnes of ideas of how to improve.

What did I like about it?

Places the views and perspectives of autistic children and adults at the centre of ensuring inclusion-Each chapter is dotted with quotes from the contributors of this book (which are made up of four autistic children and four autistic adults). The way that the quotes from the contributors have been included is fantastic, in between paragraphs about research and understanding of autism education there are bullet points of short quotes from the autistic contributors. These quotes not only provide first hand, personal evidence of the points made but they also act as a regular reminder that this is about the autistic individuals and their views are important.

–  Style- I absolutely loved reading Dr Rebecca Wood’s book. She has such a wonderful style of writing that makes learning enjoyable.  It felt more like listening to a very clever and interesting friend chatting to me about her experience and research on Autism, than it was reading an educational book. Her style is informal yet interwoven with facts, quotes and research. She also gets you re-thinking what you already thought you knew about autism and inclusion and opening your mind to new ideas. One such idea that I found particularly interesting was (in brief) embracing an autistic pupil’s Monotropism (that is their ‘tendency to focus on a single issue or activity’) and incorporating their interests into their learning.

-Covers a vast range of areas in one book– This book really covers a great deal of information, from what autism is to sensory issues, classroom support and socialisation. It’s similar in some ways to ‘Teacher Education and Autism’ in that it doesn’t presume knowledge, starts at a basic level and builds on your understanding. And in doing so makes sure to unpick any misconceptions you may have. Even though a lot of information is shared in this book, it cleverly summarises the key points at the end of each chapter, helping you to focus on the ‘take home’ messages.