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Review of "The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome"

By Patricia Romanowski Bashe and Barbara L. Kirby
Crown Publishers, 2001
Review by Monique Thornton, MSW on Jan 24th 2003
The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interactions, communication and imaginary play skills.†† Children with AS usually have normal to above average intelligence. They exhibit a variety of characteristics that include problems with sensory integration, obsessive thinking, and an area of intense special interest.

This book grew out of the experiences the authors (both parents of children with AS) had with the website OASIS. OASIS stands for Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support. Barbara Kirby founded the award winning OASIS website in 1994.†† Patricia Romanowski-Bashe is the co-owner of the website. The authors describe their website as parent centered/parent empowered, as is the book. They share their experiences and knowledge they have gathered from other parents and professionals.

Tony Atwood, who is a leading authority in the area AS, writes the forward. The book is divided into three parts. Part one explores the basics of Asperger Syndrome including, what AS looks like, how it is diagnosed, and what the symptoms/ characteristics are. Included is a substantial section on co-morbid conditions that complicate Asperger Syndrome such as OCD, ADHD, Bipolar disorder, etc.

Part 2 is called "Taking Control" and focuses on helping one get the tools one needs to make a positive impact on the life of a child with AS. It includes chapters on building a foundation for success, options and interventions, medication and special education basics. The comprehensive chapter on Special Education Basics was very informative. The authors state entering the Special Education process is like joining a long, complex board game already in progress that most of the other players have played a hundred times.†† This is something that I have found to be very true.

On page 125 there is a section of comments by OASIS members. The authors asked the question, If you were to sit across from a parent who had just learned that his or her child has AS, what would you want to tell them? The resulting comments, suggestions and support are inspirational.

Part 3 looks at the Whole Child. This section includes chapters that explore your child's emotional life and social realm.†† Chapter 11 focuses on your child in school. The authors describe this chapter in part by stating, the strengths and weaknesses of many children with AS seem to converge most glaringly at school if asked to design an environment specifically geared to stress a person with AS, you would probably come up with something that looked a lot like a school. The authors discuss the potential positives of school such as learning flexibility, social skills and independence and some negative aspects such as sensory overload.

Also included is a sample letter to give to your child's teacher. This letter can be downloaded from the OASIS website so that the parent can tailor the letter to their child. I used the letter to guide me in writing a letter to my child's teacher. I also gave the letter to his Occupational Therapist and the schools Autism Consultant to help them better know and understand my child.

On p. 426 the authors emphasize, Our job as parents is not to change our children into who we would like them to be but rather help guide them to be the best they can be. This statement is important for parents of children with Asperger Syndrome to remember, as it gets to the heart of really valuing our children for who they are and not grieving for the child we thought we would have.†† He or she is a whole person with strengths and weaknesses like the rest of us and he or she happens to have AS. Along the same line is the epilogue which includes 53 ways to make the world a better place for persons with AS. These include some creative suggestions that I would have never thought of on my own.

Parents of children with Asperger Syndrome who are looking for help often encounter many sources of information on how to deal with specific areas of concern, but I know of no other book that brings all of the information together in such a comprehensive, readable, resource guide. The guide follows the child from pre-diagnosis to the teenage years.

Romanowski Bashe and Kirby have rigorously researched the area and have relied heavily on the professional literature to provide weight to their observations, statements and suggestions. They provide not only sentiments from their personal journeys with Asperger Syndrome but also provide clear, concise information in the form of a reference book.

The authors provide clarity and depth while at the same time retaining readability, as most readers wont find themselves overwhelmed with diagnoses, professional jargon, etc. They consistently provide appropriate explanations of terminology.

The authors are very encouraging of parents. They acknowledge that after a diagnosis, most parents worry about how much time they have lost and what they have done wrong to cause their child to be different. They reassure parents that all you can control is what you choose to do today and in the future to be the best parent for your child. The majority of the book is spent on general treatment and coping strategies for parents and professionals after a child is diagnosed.

This book provides support to parents on their journey to raise a child who has AS. The book supports parents not only by providing them with the most up to date information, but also by setting a tone that lets parents know that they are not alone in their successes and failures with their child. They effectively address how the whole family is affected when a child has a disability and how positive family relationships play an active role in successful coping.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has interest in AS. The authors don't make any assumptions that they know everything. They present the information with a disclaimer about how every situation, child and family is different and what works for one may not work for another.

††††††††††† This 467-page guide will address almost any issue that parents and professionals will confront, from diagnosis to treatment options. It has many useful side boxes that encompass ideas, suggestions, sub topics, recommended reading etc. It contains countless coping strategies, concrete suggestions and techniques for parents and children. The book is organized in a logical manner and contains headings and subheadings that allow the reader to peruse it easily. This book is destined to become a classic, invaluable reference guide for any parent or professional interested in Asperger Syndrome.

Link: OASIS web site

© 2003 Monique Thorton

Monique Thornton earned her MSW in 1993 from the University of Kansas, and is the mother of a 6-year-old with Asperger Syndrome.

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