This book is the `bible' for social skills coaches, as far as I can tell. I read every one of the peer-reviewed, well researched, books I can get my hands on about Autism and peer-play. This is the best.
In the forward of this book, one of Dr. Wolfberg's professors comments that, "[Pamela's] students turned out to be much more capable than I had ever imagined once the multiple supports were established in these intense initial coaching sessions." Rather than seeing Autism as a static disorder with a certain set of skills to work with, Dr. Wolfberg uses her sensitive and in-depth account of Autism to understand the amazing potential of every child.
The purpose of this Field Manual is to provide practitioners and caregivers a guide to address the needs of children with Autism in a social setting. Her Integrated Playgroup Model is well researched (there is an extensive log of her studies in Appendix B). Dr. Wolfberg describes IPG as, "designed to support children of diverse abilities on the autism spectrum (novice players) in mutually joined play experiences with typical peers and siblings (expert players)." She outlines 6 main challenges for children with Autism in play situations: reciprocity, imagination, sensory processing, Theory of Mind (generally this is the inability to take account of the perspectives and feelings of others), and ritualized patterns.
Dr. Wolfberg goes into detail about how each of these issues presents difficulty in both the `Symbolic Dimension' and the `Social Dimension'. The Symbolic Dimension involves manipulation play, functional play, and symbolic-pretend play. The Social Dimension revolves around the typical roles children play as: onlookers, parallel players, players with common focus, coopertive play, and peer group entry. Peer group entry has long been known as the most difficult and sophisticated form of play skill.
More importantly, Pamela Wolberg understands that these common play skills, we have all seen in action or remember from our childhoods, are critical and essential for development through the lifespan. Rather than marvel at how typical children are able to pick up these skills in a more natural developmental sequence, Pamela Wolfberg dissects the sequence of play skills in order to include children with Autism in similiar activities. Her book has a broad and deep scope, preparing practitioners to address the various challenges of social interaction for children with Autism. Further, Dr. Wolberg is extremely helpful and supportive as a resource to parents and practioners. She is authentic in her desire to spread the word about how to properly prepare Autistic children for the important world of play.