April 28, 2006

New autism books offer guidance to practitioners, parents

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New autism books offer guidance to practitioners, parents

Two recently released books on autism offer insights and information for both parents and practitioners working with children with this complex disorder.

Wendy Stone, Ph.D., director of the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Vanderbilt University, authored the book for parents and co-edited the volume for researchers and clinicians.

In “Does My Child Have Autism?” Stone answers questions that parents are increasingly asking about their children's behavior, reflecting growing public awareness about the disorder but lingering confusion about how it is defined.

“There seemed to be a need in the community for more information about how to identify autism and what to do if parents have concerns,” said Stone, professor of Psychology and Pediatrics and an investigator in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. “The diagnostic process can be pretty scary for parents. This book gives parents an understanding of what that process is like and what they can do at home while waiting for a definitive diagnosis.”

The book, written primarily for parents of young children, provides a checklist of behaviors parents can use to talk with their pediatrician, a discussion of the various treatments available and the scientific evidence backing them up, and a discussion of behaviors that are important for early diagnosis and are often missed.

The second volume, “Social and Communication Development in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Early Identification, Diagnosis, and Intervention,” is a compilation of research examining how very young children with autism develop socially and how they communicate, and how to use these key indicators to diagnose and assist these children.

“Young children with autism are less likely to initiate interactions or to share their interest in something, and they have difficulty imitating actions – there's a qualitative difference in their social engagement,” Stone said. “This book contains empirically based information about early social and communication development in children with autism and how this information can be used to identify children and to implement different types of interventions.

“The focus is on children's development through the infancy and preschool years, and how specific programs and strategies can be used to enhance their social and communication development,” she continued. “The target audience is pediatricians, child psychologists, child psychiatrists, speech-language pathologists, and other professionals who work in the fields of diagnosis or intervention.”

Tony Charman, a member of the Behavioral Sciences Unit in the Institute of Child Health, University College London, co-edited the book with Stone.

"This is the most important, ambitious, and exciting volume to be published on autism spectrum disorders in the last several years,” wrote Helen Tager-Flusberg, Lab of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Boston University School of Medicine, in a review of the book. “Taken together, the chapters demonstrate the feasibility of identifying every toddler at risk and providing interventions to significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and promote language acquisition.”

Both books are available on Amazon.com.

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