Tim Brunson DCH

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Practical Social Skill for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Designing Child-Specific Interventions



A book review by Tim Brunson PhD

If a human mind is normal, it is presumed that its owner go through specific physical, cognitive, and emotional stages in order to learn how to navigate their social environment. When that fails to happen as expected by mental health experts, a person could be diagnosed as having some level of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In Practical Social Skill for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Designing Child-Specific Interventions, Kathleen Koenig MSN presents what she calls a blueprint for understanding ASD and designing effective, evidence-based interventions.

A major strength of this book is its logical flow. Ms. Koenig starts off her book by presenting the three basic ASD levels, being autism, Asperger's Syndrome (or Disorder), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (or Atypical Autism). Then in contrast, she carefully gives a very clear and concise explanation of what is considered to be healthy development from infancy through adulthood. She also provides a comprehensive explanation of the how this relates to the various stages of conventional education as well as recent legal requirements for educators.

Key to her book is her insistence that ASD interventions involve the integrated effort of everyone who can and does impact a child so diagnosed. This team includes parents, special and regular education teachers, other teachers and therapists, and para-professionals. She also suggests that some interventions be enhanced by a peer tutor, who is another child that has been specially trained to assist with a selected intervention.

While insisting that only well-researched, evidenced-based interventions (and thus meeting legal requirements) should be used, the approaches that Ms. Koenig discusses range between behavioral and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Clearly, she gives the reader a variety of approved methods from which to choose.

Although this book would probably be a tad too technical for a parent who is not trained in the mental health or education fields, those who are would benefit greatly by it. Its flow is very understandable as it moves from explaining ASD, social development, the education environment, interventions, and measurement techniques. Therefore, I highly recommend this to such clinical and education students and professionals. For those hypnotherapists, who lack the training and qualifications to address ASD as part of their practice, they could plausibly benefit from wading through the book's excellent depiction when it comes to social development and even appreciate some of the transformational approaches. However, most likely there are other resources that can more appropriately satisfy those interests.

On the other hand, for those hardy individuals, who tend to be more synoptic, out-of-the-box thinkers, this book has considerable merit. As essentially autism is a disorder involving a person's ability to create meaning as a consequence of social interaction, the author's explanation of the stages of development and how dysfunctions can be remediated has implications for artificial intelligence research to include anyone who attempts to develop websites using AI concepts. Indeed, addressing or modeling human intelligence cannot be accomplished without understanding how meaning formation uses perception, relevance filtering, imitation, intervention design (i.e. error correction), and measurement. As Ms. Koenig's book is so well presented – albeit for another audience – I would not rule out this unintended value.

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