The Siege: The First Eight Years of an Autistic Child

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The Siege: The First Eight Years of an Autistic Child

Postby Dani » Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:13 pm

This is an old book by Clara Clairborne Park. The child at the center of the book referred to as Elly in the book was born in 1960. It's a good book to read to get a sense of what it was like to raise an autistic child in the 1960s. The book covers Elly's early childhood. There is another book (Exiting Nirvana) that covers her as an adult by which time "Elly" is semi-independent with a job in the mailroom of her mother's college. Elly can read, write, and speak although she still continues to have problems with language and social matters. She also becomes an accomplished artist.

There really wasn't anything available to these parents so they create their own flash cards and teaching methods. They think of ways to teach Elly play skills. They're really very observant and they tweak their program to suit her. They take her everywhere - stores, other people's homes, trips abroad. She's a full member of the family. They refuse to put her in an institution. The reader comes to admire and appreciate these parents for all their efforts. They did more for Elly than schools and specialists at the time could do. However, I would not rely on this book for advice regarding what to do today. This book is very outdated. There are modern therapies (Verbal Behavior ABA, Floortime, RDI, Rapid Prompt, occupational and speech therapies) and biomedical treatments that are infinitely better than what was available 40 years ago for autistic children.

I give the parents a lot of credit for fashioning their own home program to teach their daughter after the best minds at a leading institute could offer them nothing. All they got was a sense of blame for being cold unfeeling parents - that was the thinking at the time. Children were autistic because the parents weren't affectionate and loving (i.e. "refrigerator parents").

All in all, a good book for those of us raising ASD kids in the 21st century to see how far we've come. We still have a long way to go, but reading this book made me aware of how much progress has been made.
I didn't know how strong I could be until I had to be.

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