A Review of Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Understanding the Diagnosis& Getting Help by Mitzi Waltz, O’Reilly and Associates Inc., 2002. Reviewed by Maureen Bennie

Author Mitzi Waltz, patient advocate, has written a comprehensive resource manual on Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD’s). She covers every aspect of ASD’s leaving no stone unturned. Each of the 12 chapters is broken down into succinct subheadings that virtually cover every facet of autism. Parents starting on the autism journey would be well advised to read this book. Arming oneself with knowledge can help a parent advocate effectively.

The first three chapters give a background to Autism Spectrum Disorders – the medical facts, categories of ASD’s, and diagnosis. Clear diagrams support medical explanations. Parental examples written in Italics highlight information and give a human experience to ASD’s. Ms. Waltz moves beyond technical jargon in favor of using text that will educate and help parents.

Chapter 4 is the most critical chapter of the book in that it helps parents set the stage for successful intervention and treatment. Waltz recommends looking at 4 main goals when constructing an intervention plan: health and safety, communication, social, and academic/vocational. The parents can prioritize these goals in a way that best meets the needs of their child. Parents know their child best and any therapy team would embrace this kind of well-thought out, organized parental direction.

Chapter 5 tackles medical interventions. Prescription drugs are examined as well as possible medical conditions that may cause or autism or are linked to its onset such as vaccines. Again this information is organized with subheadings so parents can pick and choose what pertains to them. Bulleted points make scanning an easy task.

Chapters 6 and 7 look at mainstream and alternative interventions. Methods are highlighted with parental comments from those involved in a particular therapy. Chapter 8 deals with the necessary subject of health insurance. Waltz highlights several other countries in addition to the USA. Much of the information given could be used as a research guide applicable to any country. Waltz also includes a list of alternatives to health insurance.
Chapter 9 discusses the issue of schooling. Some valuable sample forms are included in this chapter. Every aspect of schooling is explored – educational options, social skills training, monitoring progress, dealing with behavior, and taking on the school system when it is failing to meet your child’s needs.

Chapter 10 looks at family issues and support, in other words what families face and how to deal with the issues successfully. Waltz looks at everything from divorce to tips for daily living. If you are not sure about how to cut your child’s toenails, it is addressed in this chapter. Sensible and realistic advice is offered from Waltz to the everyday problems of living and caring for an ASD person.

The final two chapters deal with what it is like to be an ASD child, what you will see from them, and living as an adult. Few books delve into the adult issues of an ASD person. The book finishes with 7 appendices that are a gold mine of information and resources. Any parent, professional or educator would find these appendices useful.

Mitzi Waltz of the Autism Research Institute in the UK has compiled an excellent reference book that would benefit parents, health professionals, and educators. No autism library would be complete without it.

C Autism Today 2002

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