I have several friends with autistic children. As a result, I became interested in the topic. This is why I selected Is My Child Autistic or Delayed for review when the opportunity was offered to me by The Bookplex.
Author Susan Louise Peterson is a school psychologist with a great deal of experience with observing autistic and delayed development students. Is Your Child Autistic or Delayed provides a great many insights based on her experience.
I thought the approach of having a team assessment with members drawn from a number disciplines observing the child in multiple contexts over a period of time is a sound one. Peterson’s caution to parents about relying on the use of online questionnaires for the diagnosis of their children seemed to be particularly apt.
On the other hand, the structure of the book which involves presenting parents’ concerns followed by a professional response lends itself to repetitiveness. There are many similar issues presented in Is Your Child Autistic or Delayed and similar statements in the replies. This book could be better organized to eliminate all the repetition.
Another important criticism is that Peterson doesn’t think that medical doctors have any role in diagnosing autism and can’t imagine how an MRI applies to this process. The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin, which I read recently, shows how the brains of individuals on the autism spectrum can be different from neurotypical individuals. An MRI reveals these differences. Although The Autistic Brain is a new book, the discovery that an MRI can be used as a tool to diagnose autism is several years old. It surprises me that a professional interested in this topic wouldn’t have noticed the published studies that have validated the use of MRIs for this purpose.
There has been a shake up in the area of autism diagnosis. Asperger's Syndrome no longer exists as a diagnostic category. Temple Grandin says in The Autistic Brain that diagnoses are less important than solutions. She takes a pragmatic approach to those highly functioning individuals who used to be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. It seems to Grandin that if someone's brain functions differently from the majority of people in certain areas, maybe what's needed are coping strategies rather than a diagnosis. A child who knows how to deal effectively with issues that are considered impairments or challenges, will become a functioning adult rather than an impaired one. I think that is the goal of both school psychologists like Susan Peterson, and those who speak from the autistic perspective like Temple Grandin.