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I first came across this book when I was officially diagnosed with autism, about 4 years ago at the local TEACCH Center. At this time Catherine was still working for TEACCH. (I knew I was autistic before that, but being a girl & growing up in the 80's I had grown-up with other labels, like "emotionally disturbed.") Having the diagnosis finally made official & having *BOTH* people in my life & MYSELF accept that there was a neurological reason for my differences & behaviors (rather than problems with my character) was vitally important. This book helped make that possible. And it was on the very day of my diagnosis that I first encountered it! I was extremely exhausted & stressed after undergoing the series of required psychological & cognitive tests. Actually, I was ready to run out the door. (Which was something that I did a lot under stress in those days.) But while the results of the tests were being discussed, the therapist (probably detecting my distress) handed me this book to look at. I promptly proceed to focus on the book & ignore everyone else. I have to admit that the first thing I liked about the book was that it was HEAVY. It was the weight/pressure of the book on my lap that actually helped me to sit & slow down my stimming. Eventually I calmed down enough to look inside of the book & read some of the words. When Catherine came in & was introduced to me for the first time, I said, "I like your book! It is helping me to sit!" In the days after my evaluation, my thoughts kept coming back around to this book. I really wanted to be able to explore it more, in my own time. We went to the library & checked it out. I am so glad that we did! I read it & re-read it. I did the activities in the book. While other books I had access to were dense & wordy, this book was easy to process & broken down into parts that I could manage. I was learning, understanding & accepting a lot about myself, through using this book. And here is what was really great: It didn't just help me, it helped my partner a lot too. We *both* read it, through the book we were communicating about important topics. It helped us both understand what was going on! I am really grateful for this experience. Even though the book is meant for children and teens, I think it is really useful for people of any age! I liked that my differences were presented in a straight-forward, non-judgmental, positive way. It was extremely validating to see them in print. That they were in a book made me feel not alone & not "wrong." I started to feel more kind & gentle with myself, I started to think in terms of "differences" rather than "deficiencies" or "faults." I loved the concrete suggestions. As an adult, I enjoyed reading the sections for "Parents & Teachers" as well. I especially loved reading about schedules & the examples of schedules in the book. I loved how Catherine introduces the idea of getting help or requesting help. This is a cornerstone for self-advocacy. And I had never known that I could ask for help. I loved the work-sheet statements that I could easily read & think about & process... and then decide if they were "true for me." Seeing things that *were* honestly true for me, in print, helped me to understand truths about myself that I had never been able to form into words before or communicate to another person! I started to feel like, "Hey! Someone understands me! This has never really happened before! I want to keep going, keep learning!" One of my favorite things was reading about "the quiet children." As a very silent child, it made me so happy to read this. In the second edition, there are some great new additions to the book. I love the way Catherine defends stimming! I want to be in a class that has group stimming time, like she recommends. I would have loved doing this in school. The expanded additions on talents & creative expression are wonderful! I hope that everyone who reads the book will find some of their own talents reflected in this chapter. And the chapter on being happy is very important. I like that it has very concrete suggestions for improving happiness. This makes feeling better very accessible to the autistic cognitive style. The section on students giving their own input in the IEP process THRILLS me to no end! Lastly, I think the sections for older kids on self injurious behavior & depression/suicidal feelings are also really important. These topics are hard for anyone to discus! This gives a non-emotional, logical way for autistic people to try to express big, complicated feelings & experiences. This book is *very* important for autistic children because it helps them to understand themselves & their experiences. And to realize that their experiences may be different from other people's. Typically, so much treatment for autistic children focuses on language development, changing behavior, and developing social skills. These are all external observable traits. BUT they do not address the lived in, internal experience of being an autistic person. What Catherine's book can do is help children understand who they are, on the INSIDE. This is vitally important and there needs to be more focus on this area of personal development!!! I don't know if non-autistic people can appreciate how out of control life can feel when you live in a world that is not designed for your way of being. But every bit of understanding that we have, of ourselves & of each other, helps to make navigating the world a tiny bit easier. And. PLEASE remember: If accurate information is not available to help children understand themselves, they will *STILL* come to conclusions about who they are & how they are in the world. And this information (more often than not) will be provided by people who (at best) do not understand autism & (at worst) by people who are being actively unkind (for example: bullies!). By using this book I think children can gain self-understanding, self-acceptance & (ultimately) self-confidence in ways that are really tailored to their strengths & abilities. Everyone feels better when they are understood & understand themselves! Autistic people are not different in this regard. - Jade McWilliams"
Catherine Faherty works with children and adults with autism through the well-renowned TEACCH program in North Carolina. She is also a parent consultant and child therapist; consults to school programs; trains teachers and other professionals locally, nationally, and internationally; and runs social groups for children and adults with autism. She has written manuals used in TEACCH trainings, developed training models. Catherine Faherty resides in Asheville, North Carolina, USA.