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Review of "Targeting Autism"

By Shirley Cohen
University of California Press, 2002
Review by Susan Lesco on Sep 11th 2003
Targeting Autism

In her updated edition of Targeting Autism, Shirley Cohen presents a pragmatic, objective, yet empathic introduction to life with this baffling gamut of neuro-biological disorders. The author, who is a university professor of special education, draws on her own experience as well as that of prominent and private individuals who have, live with, or treat autism. Cohen acknowledges and explains what she calls "the mysterious code of autism" as a spectrum of disorders, with similar characteristics that affect each individual and family in extremely different ways.† She states,† "One of the most striking aspects of the condition (or conditions) labeled 'autism' is its variability. What then do people called autistic have in common?"† Cohen examines the answers to this and many other questions about autism that parents, educators and other professionals continue to pose.

In the first of this three-part book, Shirley Cohen uses specific examples to illustrate each of the core deficits of autism spectrum disorders.† She discusses Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and explanations of their affects on individuals and families. One of the chapters in part two, "Is Lovaas the Only Game in Town?", examines the pros, cons, and reported outcomes of a variety of programs such as the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children) intervention system, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), and " 'alternative' treatments like auditory integration training."† In part three, Cohen offers her own suggestions for policy revisions, specific educational interventions for children and "person centered planning" options for adults with autism.

Albeit Targeting Autism is primarily geared toward parents new to the world of autism, its comprehensive and impartial analysis of research findings, treatment options and a myriad of controversial issues is useful for anyone interested in the topic. Shirley Cohen captures the essence of the delicate balance between accepting realistic treatment outcomes, hoping for recovery, and defining quality of life with autism.† This book is a valuable resource for parents, friends, families and advocates with a quest to build an up-to-date, balanced, and solid foundation of knowledge about autism spectrum disorders.

©2003 Susan Lesco

Susan Lesco, Cody Center for Autism, SUNY Stony Brook, NY

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