Do you need to talk to your teen about autism spectrum disorder? Perhaps they have a sibling, a friend, or a classmate who has been diagnosed with ASD. Perhaps you have a teen with ASD. Perhaps you are a teacher, parent, or student who would simply like to learn more. Fully updated with the post-2015 terminology and diagnostic language, Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Ultimate Teen Guide, by Francis Tabone, presents an accessible, comprehensive guide to ASD for middle school students and above.

Like ADD and ADHD in the 1990s, autism spectrum disorder has seen a surge in public awareness — and public anxiety. From the erroneous association of vaccines with ASD to the consolidation of disorders under the spectrum (Asperger’s, for example has been done away with as a diagnosis), ASD has become a popular topic without necessarily becoming a popularly well-understood topic. Tabone seeks to remedy that for young people with his book, which is written to provide readers with a basic understanding of ASD and, more importantly, recommendations for interacting with individuals with ASD.

Tabone’s guide is sensibly structured, so that each chapter builds on previous information. Beginning with “The Basics” and “What’s in a Name? A Historical Look at ASD,” Tabone then moves into a more technical discussion of ASD and how it affects the brain and the senses. Later chapters deal with ASD and society, including “Education and Therapies for Individuals with ASD” and “The Fame of ASD.” Finally, Tabone provides context and support with the final chapters, “Parents and Siblings—What is Their Experience?” and “What Should I Say? What Should I Do?” Subheadings further direct the reader and allow for easy browsing, including “Theory of Mind,” “What Might Sensory Integration Dysfunction Feel Like?” and “Language, No One has Autism.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder is also helpfully peppered with charts, explanations of key terms and ideas, case studies, and anecdotes to facilitate the reader’s understanding. For example, in “The Brain and ASD,” Tabone explains how an MRI machine works, includes a graph showing the correlations between brain size and age, discusses how many neurons are in the human brain, provides a diagram of the brain’s general structure, shows pruned and unpruned neurons, and introduces the story of a young man named Michael, who can remember everyone’s birthday. These asides occasionally disrupt the normal flow of the text, but in general provide greater context and understanding, and are easily returned to later.

But Autism Spectrum Disorder provides more than definitions and explanations. It also tackles different strategies in the classroom for teaching students with ASD. These may be helpful both for students and their families and for prospective educators. Tabone emphasizes that every individual with ASD is different, which does present the primary challenge for educators and school staff. However, he also details a variety of educational and the therapeutic strategies, including Applied Behavior Analysis, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Floortime, Pivotal Response Treatment, and TEACCH, or Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Related Handicapped Children.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Autism Spectrum Disorder includes stories about individuals with autism, sharing their experiences and unique interactions with the world. Tabone shares the voices of many teens with ASD; likewise, he describes the lives of several famous individuals with ASD and ASD-like symptoms, including Temple Grandin, Daniel Tammet, Kim Peek, and Susan Boyle. These narratives not only provide context and further information, they are an empowering way for teens to understand ASD and the perspectives of individuals with ASD. Indeed, the very last section of the book is the story of Jake, a young man with ASD whom Tabone knows well. More extensive than other narratives in the text, Jake’s story recounts both his struggles and his triumphs. Tabone occasionally interjects a point about Jake’s experience, but the story is otherwise entirely his. Consequently, Autism Spectrum Disorder offers much more than a historical or neurological perspective; it offers a human perspective.

Tabone has put together an immensely helpful book, not only for teens but also for other members of the community and lay readers alike. First-time educators will likely find much that is beneficial here, as will parents. Autism Spectrum Disorder can be handily read in a day or two; it likewise lends itself to easy browsing for those who would want to skip around or revisit particular chapters later. In the end materials, Tabone includes a list of further resources for teens, including websites, books, and movies that may be of help. But again, anyone hoping to gain a greater understand of ASD will benefit from picking up this book.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Ultimate Teen Guide
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, August 2016
Hardcover, 232 pages
$45.00

Psych Central's Recommendation:
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