Full Disclosure: James Coplan MD, Autism Expert
What This Book Isn't: Not for Parents Brand New to Autism
This book isn't for parents interested in learning all about the Defeat Autism Now protocol for autism treatment, or for parents who believe strongly in the theory that autism is caused by vaccines. In fact, a whole chapter on "Sense and Nonsense in Autism Treatment" pretty much blows the DAN protocol out of the water.
This book is not a great reference for parents interested in learning all about special education, autism in the community, or other non-medical aspects of autism. While Dr. Coplan does include chapters on school and family life, both are relatively lightweight in comparison to the rest of the book. There are other, better references for those non-medical, non-treatment oriented topics.
What This Book Is: A Uniquely Rich Resource for Autism Parents
For me, though, the most useful and significant part of this book is the section about behavioral and developmental treatments for autism. All too often, each separate treatment protocol - ABA, RDI, Floortime, etc. - is treated as an entirely separate and unrelated entity. But Coplan explains how they're the same and how they're different from one another. He also provides insight into why a particular treatment might be appropriate for a particular child, and why different treatments might be appropriate for the same child at different times in his life.
Coplan also provides solid descriptions of sensory integration therapy and its uses, and offers a long and full explanation of speech and language therapy. A chapter on "Communication First, Language Second," elucidates the importance of basic communication as opposed to simple acquisition of words. This chapter is particularly important for parents of non-verbal children who need the info to understand their children's needs.
Best Bits from Making Sense of Autism Spectrum Disorders
"Picking the right therapy as your child moves along his path is like hitting a moving target; the answer to your question "What does my child need?" will change as your child makes progress." Most parents tend to pick a therapy and stick to it like glue; this statement (and the reams of helpful supporting information and examples) may change the way you think about therapeutic choices.
"ASD has a natural history of improvement over time, regardless of intervention." In other words, kids with autism will build skills and improve in functioning NO MATTER WHAT you provide in the way of therapy. This statement has huge implications: it's quite possible that a child's improvement over time is due, at least in part, to his own maturation process and NOT to the newest therapy you've added to the pot.
"The biggest differences between Natural Environment Training [a form of ABA], pivotal response treatment [a completely different form of ABA] and DIR [a developmental treatment also known as Floortime] are the vocabularies used by the different professionals involved....from the child's perspective, all of these programs look remarkably similar - regardless of the differing professional jargon." Living as I do in a world of violently competing philosophies, it's eye-opening to learn how similar these "very different" approaches can be!