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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Helping Children with Complex Needs Bounce Back by Kim Aumann and Angie Hart :- a book review

First of all I need to publicize my bias. I dislike a whole genre of books, namely, all books that fall into the following categories:- self help, how to, step by step, self improvement, how I struggled, suffered, overcame and triumphed in the end, and anything that vaguely suggests that it will transform your life into perfection. As a natural born cynic, I dislike books that offer the temptation of a quick fix.

That said, this book with it’s conversational style, was difficult to put down. This was in part because of the "writers’" charm, their awareness that the "quick fix" doesn’t exist, that parents are weary, often with limited resources and that fundamentally, attitude is everything. I don’t know if you can learn "resilience training" from a book, but it certainly helps to read about practical ways of altering thought processes into a more positive approach.

I rarely have the opportunity to read a book from cover to cover in one sitting and so this ‘dip in’ approach was a good fit for my current life style. The format of introduction, expansion and summary for each chapter is also a helpful and practical organizational tool for the haphazard reader.

I thoroughly enjoyed the many anonymous quotes such as:-

‘Really there’s no magic you know, it’s just about keeping at it.’

I did enjoy the initial parental and child self assessment questionnaires, mainly because I’m very good at lying, so I can anticipant the answers and ensure a good score. In all honesty, I should have stuck to chapter one because we failed, quite miserably. Shall I share? This evaluation tests whether or not we’re managing the basics before we move on to more advanced skills.

4. I can get out and about without too many difficulties:- True / False / Sometimes

6. I take part in physical activity at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes at least five times a week:- True / False / Sometimes

7. I get out of the house at least once a day:- True / False / Sometimes

Often a book wins me over precisely because it follows my own tenants and reflects my own values. Hence in chapter two, the authors discuss how to deal with busybodies, full of opinions that they always insist upon sharing, no matter how inappropriate. They have several suggestions to help people through these frequent difficult moments. As they say, ‘there’s no magic cure for people being nasty,’ however by far my favourite foil is as follows:- ‘disarm people by agreeing with them.’

Most of us with special needs children encounter a great many experts over the years. The experts have a great deal of experience and a flourish of qualifications to back them up, but often, we doubt whether they would be able to cope with what we cope with 24/7. When that is the case, it can also be difficult to accept their advice, because they are not the ones who will have to endure the practicalities of teaching, enforcing and persisting, for many months, if not years. However, it is quite clear to me that both of these women have also been on the short end of life, down in the trenches with the rest of us. They’re not preaching from on high, which makes me all the more keen to listen, just as they have listened to real people, coping with real life:-

‘I’m busy with a star chart and his behaviour, but meanwhile I can’t even get his clothes washed for school. The washing machine’s packed up, I don’t have the money to get it fixed, he wets the bed every night, the sheets are stinking and piling up. But I’m so busy chasing after him that I can’t get a moment to ring a plumber.’

Funnily enough, when I read this, I thought to myself, 'if she's managing to use a star chart, regardless of the other chaos, then she's pretty high up the old learning curve.'

There are a great many practical solutions and suggestions, with even more tit bits of common sense. I am the kind of person that reads a book with a pen in my hand and this book provided lots of opportunities to interact and scribble. I’d offer to send you my own copy, but as usual I have more than mangled it, which strangely, is a very good indication of a powerful influence. Whilst it is always possible for the truly grumpy to nit pick, on the whole, it may be better to adopt the general ethos and know by that as we drown in defeat, we may also grasp at the positive.

I doubt if one can grow an attitude through simply "reading a book," but I suspect it may help many of us who are struggling to achieve the same "goals," happy, well adjusted children, and we can all do with a little positive reinforcement on that "front."

Cheers dears

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